Markets under threat
WHEN Suzie Mylecharane started her clothing business 32 years ago it was the local craft markets that were her business training ground.
Starting with just two clothes racks and learning the ropes at each monthly Byron Community Market, the Myocum designer has built up her business, Ku Clothing, to the point where she wholesales around Australia.
Ms Mylecharane believes the supportive market culture that gave her such a head start is under threat with a new Byron Shire Council draft market policy and tender process currently on display.
The draft policy will potentially allow local markets to be run as a private commercial business, rather than the current management by the not-for-profit Byron Bay Community Centre which funnels all profits from the markets back into community projects.
The draft policy also eliminates what many feel is one of the hallmarks of the colourful local markets' success; the policy of prioritising local stallholders and produce.
"(Under the draft policy) I think the markets could end up filled with franchises," Ms Mylecharane said.
"And if it was run just as a business and stall fees went up it would be really hard for people just starting out. A lot of lovely Byron Bay designers may get pushed out. You don't see much of a profit margin when you first start out," she said.
General Manager of the Byron Bay Community Centre, Paul Spooner, was at the Byron market yesterday where a petition against the policy was being signed ahead of a community meeting chaired by former ABC presenter, now local resident, Kerry O'Brien tonight at the community centre from 7pm.
"The meeting is to inform people of all the issues surrounding this policy," Mr Spooner said.
"For the last 30 years our local markets have been run for, and by, the local community and we need to preserve that," he said.
"If we sell the markets to the highest bidder the types of stalls we see at the markets will change and we will see a repeat of what has happened in Jonson St as it has become more commercial and taken over by franchises."
Mr Spooner wants the council to do a cost/benefit analysis before changing its market policy.
"There's not a community group in this area that doesn't benefit in some way from our markets," he said.
"Who will pay for (community projects) if we don't? The council?"
Byron Shire Mayor Jan Barham also encourages the community to have their say on the policy, drafted in response to State Government requirements for better economic returns for managing Crown lands.
"I'm not comfortable with what we currently have out there on display," Cr Barham said.
"We know our markets are distinct and unique and we have to be careful that the defining factor in this process is not money but community values. When you are onto a good thing, why change it?
"With State regulations, the tender process has to be open to commercial tenders, but then it's up to council to assess and see who we believe delivers the best outcome for the community."