Lennox Head Market Relocation, Ballina Shire Council

wrong way go back

 

An iconic and much loved north coast market is ripped from it’s idyllic location and stuck in a shed in an effort to appease a minority. Conflicting reports sight damage to it’s lakeside location as the reason while others mention CBD business interests as the driving force behind this outrageous decision.

I feel it is important to give the reader a little background on this very important story, so I am going to look at the series of events leading up to the decision by the Ballina Shire Council (BSC) to permanently move the Lennox Head Market from Lake Ainsworth to the Lennox Head Cultural and Community Centre.

2009

As early as July 2009 Council resolved to trial the relocation of the Lennox head market during flooding events to Williams reserve and or the foreshore of Ballina Street, Council also resolved to consider the option of permanently locating the markets at one of the alternative sites.

2013

MARCH 2013

The proposal to permanently relocate the market to Lennox Head Cultural and Community Centre was informally discussed at the March 2013 B Ward Committee Meeting.

From the “B” Ward Committee minutes on the 18th of March

The December 2012 and January 2013 Lennox Head Community Markets were relocated to the Lennox Head Cultural & Community Centre to reduce the pressure on Lake Ainsworth reserve during the peak holiday period.

Council received feedback from the community that the markets were a success, and suggestions that a permanent relocation to the community centre would benefit the market and the township.

It was mentioned that “There are several benefits that can be achieved with this relocation” one being;

The permanent relocation would provide ongoing stability for the market without the need to relocate or cancel the market in bad weather, when the lake is in flood and during the holiday season. 

“would benefit the market and the township,” how utterly wrong can you be.

What this statement fails to take into account is the fact that the greatest appeal of the market, is it’s location at the lake, not in a shed. Stall holders, and the public for that matter, gravitate to this market because of the atmosphere. Stall holders would prefer to loose a day or two trading throughout the year due to rain or floods if they were confident the they could trade at the market at it’s lakeside location for the rest of the year.

This clearly shows is, how little these people understand about the actual dynamics of markets, more on that later.

That informal discussion lead to a report being prepared and delivered at the April Council meeting, agenda items 11.4 was “Lennox Head Community Market – Relocation Consultation”

24 APRIL 2013

Ballina shire Council ordinary meeting on Wednesday 24 April 2013

Civil Services Group Report

Item 11.4 Lennox Head Community Market – Relocation Consultation

The Report objective states,To identify if there is interest from the Council in consulting with the community in regard to a proposal to relocate the Lennox Head Community Market to the Lennox Head Cultural and Community Centre.

The purpose of this report is to invite the Council to determine whether or not it would like to establish a consultation process to examine the question of a potential relocation of the market.

This report has been prompted by feedback from residents and businesses that support the concept of the LHCCC being the preferred location for the market. It is also acknowledged other key stakeholders object to the proposal.

Consultation

The site of the markets in Lennox Head has been a matter of keen interest to key stakeholders and the local community. There are conflicting opinions about the preferred location.
The purpose of this report is to invite the Council to determine if it would like to examine the proposal to relocate from the current Lake Ainsworth site on an ongoing basis. If the answer to that question is yes, then it is recommended that the next step be to establish a formal community consultation process.

How ludicrous, feedback from residents and businesses supporting the concept? not from the market manager and market traders in the market, consider this;

You have a gift shop in a town and one weekend a festival comes to town and you trade from the festival location, the public love it and before you know it, the public are proposing that you move your business to the festival location for good, the council get hold of it and force you to move your entire business!! no questions, no appeal, no options, and all for the greater good?

Of course this would never happen, Illogical, you bet, but that is how irrational this whole procedure is.

The problem here is the perception of markets, not as legitimate businesses in their own right, be it, the entire market or, the multitude of businesses within it,  but as commodities, something that can be manipulated with absolutely no regard for the people who make it happen in the first place, the owners and managers of the businesses, the entire mechanism is fundamentally flawed.

The one recommendations of the Civil Services Group Report;

That Council undertake a formal consultation process with key stakeholders and the broader community to investigate the option to relocate the regular Lennox Head Community Market to the Lennox Head Cultural and Community Centre, including the use of the northern portion of Williams Reserve.

As a result of the one recommendation

JUNE 2013

Sumbiosis Pty Ltd was commissioned by BSC in June 2013 to consult with key stockholders regarding the proposed relocation of the markets, Tracey Stinson undertook the consultation.

 

22 JULY 2013

A Draft report from Sumbiosis Pty Ltd was delivered to Council on the 22 of July 2013.

The four (4)  recommendations;

  1. “Maintain the Lennox market at the current location”
  2. Relocate the market to the Community Centre and Williams Reserve when the road beside the lake is flooded and during the peak summer period
  3. Council require the Market Co-ordinator to facilitate the development of a partnering agreement between key stakeholders directly impacted when the market is relocated to the Community Centre and Williams Reserve.
  4. Council review the Management Plan for the Lake and surrounding areas to identify mitigation measures that may be able to be accelerated to assist with the protection of the lake and riparian zone.

 

12 AUGUST 2013

On the 12 of August a petition in favour of keeping the market in its current location was presented to council containing 767 signatures, this petition was prepared by Ron Kleindiek, a long term stall holder at the market, over a period of about 3 months to coincide with 3 market days.

So we know nearly 800 people don’t want the market to move, I wonder then, when the “Civil Services Group Report mentions,” feedback from residents and businesses, just how many actually gave feedback? I can’t say for sure how many people did as, as far as I know it wasn’t documented, I suspect it was ad hoc comments and I seriously doubt it was anywhere near 800 yet this prompted a relocation proposal?

19 AUGUST

The Echonetdaily published “Debate over Lennox market site” by Chris Dobney and in this article Chris mentions:

“Despite the mooted move being popular with local businesspeople, who say they would benefit from the markets being closer to town, the results of independent advice obtained by the council recommend that market remain on the shore of the lake except in the height of the summer holiday season and during periods of flooding.”

Cr Johnson added, “that local businesses support the move.”

“The Lennox Chamber of Commerce is also in favour of moving the markets closer to the CBD as it provides a welcome boost to local businesses,” he said.

The article also mentions the outcome of the draft report by Sumbiosis;

“But a report, which was prepared for the council by Sumbiosis Consulting following a workshop with stakeholders, advised against permanently relocating the market.

22 AUGUST 2013

The BIG ONE.

At the Council meeting on the 22 August 2013

A Motion was moved by Cr Ben Smith and seconded by Cr Sharon Cadwallader that contained 4 points, the points were basically the four recommendations delivered in the Sumbiosis Draft Report, as above

  1. That Council, based on the feedback from the key stakeholder consultation workshop, take no further action in respect of considering options to relocate the Lennox Market from its current location.
  2. That Council confirms its support for the current practice to relocate the market to the Community Centre and Williams Reserve when the road beside the lake is flooded and during the peak summer period.
  3. That Council require the Market Co-ordinator to facilitate the development of a partnering agreement between key stakeholders directly impacted when the market is relocated to the Community Centre and Williams Reserve.
  4. That Council review the Management Plan for the Lake and surrounding areas to identify mitigation measures that may be able to be accelerated to assist with the protection of the lake and riparian zone, including but not limited to closing the eastern road.

Further

An Amendment was moved by Cr Keith Williams and seconded by Cr Paul Worth

  1. That Council review the Management Plan for the Lake and surrounding areas to identify mitigation measures that may be able to be accelerated to assist with the protection of the Lake and riparian zone, including but not limited to closing the eastern road.
  2. That Council confirms its support for the current practice to relocate the market to the Community Centre and Williams Reserve when the road beside the lake is flooded and during the peak summer period.
  3. That Council require the Market Co-ordinator to facilitate the development of a partnering agreement between key stakeholders directly impacted when the market is relocated to the Community Centre and Williams Reserve.

The motion and amendment both lost.

Finally

RESOLVED

(Cr Jeff Johnson/Cr Robyn Hordern)

  1. That the Lennox Head markets be permanently relocated from Lake Ainsworth to the Lennox Head Cultural and Community Centre.
  2. That the rugby field be roped off on market days to ensure that no market stalls or cars encroach onto the playing surface.
  3. That Council require the Market Co-ordinator to facilitate the development of a partnering agreement between key stakeholders.

FOR VOTE – All Councillors voted unanimously.

Blink and you would missed it, the fact is the Market is now to be permanently relocated to the Lennox Head Cultural and Community Centre, pending a rescission motion.

15 OCTOBER 2013

A Facebook page, Leave Lennox Markets by the Lake.” was set up and by the 23 of October it had 1700 likes.

23 OCTOBER 2013

On the 23 of October the Northern Star published the following story Lennox Head market may stay by Lake Ainsworth

In the article Cr Smith said;

“I think it’s clear that the independent community consultation report was accurate in its conclusions that, on balance, people want the markets to remain at Lake Ainsworth,” 

“Additionally, it’s now clear the new Lennox Head Chamber of Commerce executive isn’t convinced of the move so the argument of positive benefits for the CBD is a little bit shaky.

“There is no clear evidence that the markets being held on 12 days of the 365 days a year are a key component in keeping the lake healthy.”

“I think there are other things that can and should be done to address the issue of the health of the lake.”

25 OCTOBER 2013

The Echonetdaily published an article by Melissa Hargraves Lennox lakeside market in limbo”

In the article Melissa mentions that “concerns about congestion in the area and the health of Lake Ainsworth convinced Council to vote against the consultant’s recommendation not to relocate the market.”

The article also mentions that Cr Sharon Cadwallader  also told yesterday’s meeting that other concerns have since been raised, such as “the reduction in number of stallholders from 130 to 90.”

She, Cr Sharon Cadwallader, added, “the actual size of the stalls will also substantially reduce.”

“We really need a [staff] report on this,” Cr Cadwallader said, “as we thought it was just about relocating the whole market.”

28 NOVEMBER 2013 Prior to the council meeting

The Northern Star published To market, to market, at Lake Ainsworth or in Lennox CBD?” By Paul Attewell.

In the article Paul mentions that “Arguments for moving the markets closer to the town centre include increasing trade for local retailers and reducing the environmental impact on the lake foreshore.”

Further Cr Paul Worth said the decision to move the markets was contrary to a staff recommendation to leave them at Lake Ainsworth, “We believe it was the wrong decision,” he said.

28 NOVEMBER 2013

Then on the 28th of November a rescission motion was then presented

A Motion was moved by Cr Ben Smith and seconded by Cr Paul Worth

That Resolution 220813/7, as follows, be rescinded:

  1. That the Lennox Head markets be permanently relocated from Lake Ainsworth to the Lennox Head Cultural and Community Centre.
  2. That the rugby field be roped off on market days to ensure that no market stalls or cars encroach onto the playing surface.
  3. That Council require the Market Co-ordinator to facilitate the development of a partnering agreement between key stakeholders.

The Motion was LOST.

3 DECEMBER 2013

The Lennox wave published Market Move Confirmed” By Helen Fry

In the article Helen spoke with Council General Manager Paul Hickey about last week’s Council Meeting and the concerns of Councillors who voted against the recision motion.

Mr Hickey explained that there were several different positions taken at the meeting and these included environmental protection of the Lake, public access and overcrowding around the Lake, and the benefits to businesses at the other end of town.

30 DECEMBER 2013 (Post market move)

The Ballina Shire Advocate published Teething problems hit new home for marketsBy Andy Parks

In the article Cr Jeff Johnson said

“the decision to move it was also to reduce traffic congestion around the lake and to boost business in town.

 

That about sums up the series of events leading up to the relocation, under scrutiny, It does appear clear that there are basically two (2) issues at play;

Environmental protection and impact of the markets in its location at the Lake

Benefits to business in the CBD

The first thing I would like to point out is this, the market is held a total of 15 days a year, give or take, that equates to approximately, with bump in and bump out around 165 hours out of a total of 8,760 hours a year that’s about 1.8% of the total hours the lake is going about its ecological survival.

To suggest that the market has even the slightest negative impact, or any measured impact for that matter on the actual ecology of the lake is entirely false, unsubstantiated opinion at best.

But is this just my unsubstantiated opinion, let’s have a closer look, with the complete absence or mention of the market causing any ill affect to the lake in the numerous reports undertaken over the last 12 years or so, including the  Environmental assessment of Lake Ainsworth undertaken in 2001 by Manly Hydraulics Laboratory, and the State of the Beaches 2012 – 2013 report, that would indicate to me that the market has nothing to do with the current state of the lake.

We also have The Lake Ainsworth management plan 2002, “markets should be allowed to continue,” and The Lake Ainsworth Vegetation Management Plan, 2007, only mentions that the road where the markets are held used to be swamp.

The only reasonable conclusion you can reach is that, holding a market at the lake is not contributing in a negative way whatsoever to the health of the lake, if it was, the evidence would have been dispatched with vigour from the pro relocation camp and proclaimed on every billboard, but it wasn’t, because there is no real evidence, only conjecture.

And quite frankly the area for the market is in use by people and visitors the other 350 days a year, and that accounts for a whopping 98.2% in hours per year.

And just to point out for those that don’t know, the lake is also surrounded by the Surf Club, the caravan park and the recreation centre, and that is a 100% presence at the lake, so if anyone wants to point a finger they should broaden their horizons   rather than accuse the market as causing the damage, just look at that picture in the Advocate published on the 7th of January a picture from boxing day showing overflowing bins and piles of rubbish laying on the ground.

Matt Mckays’ comment on the “Leave Lennox Markets by the Lake.” Facebook page sums it up very well, in part;

This is a forum as to how a minority group can ignore all recommendations put forward regarding the lakes well being, totally mismanage the infrastructure and its surrounds, not comply with any of the environmental studies of for over 12 years, then turn around and blame a local market that is held 15 days a year for its problems.

This should essentially dismiss the majority of the arguments being put forward in the case to relocate the market in regard to environmental issues.

And this leaves us with my biggest fear, and that is “Benefits to business at the other end of the town,” as Council general manager Paul Hickey said or “. . . .to boost business in town.” as Cr Jeff Johnson mentioned, or as Cr Smith said in regard to the chamber of commerce “. . .so the argument of positive benefits for the CBD is a little bit shaky.”

Cr Johnson also mentioned, “that local businesses support the move.” and “The Lennox Chamber of Commerce is also in favour of moving the markets closer to the CBD as it provides a welcome boost to local businesses,” he said.

Could this actually be about an attempt to increase trade in the CBD for a grand total of around 120 hours of trading a year at the expense of 130 small businesses, the livelihood of hundreds of business men and women and the loss of an iconic market,  a disposable commodity!

This is my greatest concern regarding this uninformed and utterly disgraceful decision to catastrophically destroy such a flourishing market enterprise.

When you look back over the many meetings, articles and comments this reason, economic development, is most consistently presented, on a par with, if not exceeding any environmental concerns.

The community sentiment was loud and very clear, leave the market where it was, the consultants report, indisputable, leave the market where it was, the evidence was in, there was no detrimental affects to the lake that could be directly attributed to the running of the market, yet this Council decided to ignore the wishes of the community, dismiss the consultants recommendations, turn a blind eye to the facts and, as it appears, side with a minority.

And what is worse by their own admission, they had no idea of the immediate impact this decision was going to have on the livelihood of the market traders themselves, let alone any understanding of the long term impact on the market.

“Cr Sharon Cadwallader told yesterday’s meeting that other concerns have since been raised, such as “the reduction in number of stallholders from 130 to 90.”

She, Cr Sharon Cadwallader, added, “the actual size of the stalls will also substantially reduce.”

“We really need a [staff] report on this,” Cr Cadwallader said, “as we thought it was just about relocating the whole market.”

Notwithstanding the fact that  Cr Cadwallader said “as we thought it was just about relocating the whole market” which in itself I find quite disparaging, however the fact is a motion was passed and the councillors who voted had absolutely no idea of the impact the decision was going to have on the market or the small business men and women involved in the market, this is the fault of not just the councillors themselves but the council officers and staff who prepared the reports and have been working on this relocation proposal for many months, this is totally unacceptable.

The biggest problem with this decision, is the fact that, if this was driven, if this was conceived by a person or small group of people with any business interests in town hungry for more trade or fearful of trade lost to the market on just one day a month of the market, it shows the malign intent of those behind the decision, it’s typical and it’s so done to death all over the world, the standard line will contain, “provide a boost to local business” or “benefit business in town” which actually means;

“I am a retailer in town and I see lots of people going to your market on the weekend, but because it is at the other end of town I am not benefiting from YOUR hard work so we will move your market outside my shop so I can benefit, until of course I am doing so well that your market stalls are now in the way of my Business and I will close you down, as you have done your job!”

Sometimes it comes with a smoke screen, sometimes not, in the case of Lennox market a few cans of “environmental impact” were lobbed at the crowd first in an attempt to disorientate them.

This market is now facing an uncertain future, some of the market traders, well the ones that have not been forced to leave if Cr Sharon Cadwalladers remarks are true, such as “the reduction in number of stallholders from 130 to 90,” will migrate to other markets. The market will now enter a state of flux for some time to come, it may survive but the traders will be feeling concerned for their future and will look for stability elsewhere.

I will add here that I am in no way criticising the management of this market, the manager and staff  are doing a commendable job in extremely adverse conditions, as to are the market traders, making the best of a very challenging situation.

The biggest tragedy is, it will never be what it was, in it’s current location it will never be considered a tourist attraction in it’s own right, people who once visited the market to enjoy the atmosphere may stop coming or if they do it certainly won’t be to linger and socialise, that’s lost forever.

Markets are dynamic and they have their own ecology if you like, the combination of the location  in this case omnipotent, the market traders themselves and the management as well as any number of variables are all intrinsic to the ultimate survival of any market.

Attempt to remove or change one or more of the above without a comprehensive understanding and the market and all the businesses within it can fail.

Sometimes quickly, sometimes it’s a long and painful death.

And this is a major problem, we have many councils, community groups and private individuals  and not only in this country, that, without any market experience believe they know better, usually in regard to economic development, and have absolutely no understanding of market dynamics. Coupled with a belief that markets are only here to improve the retail opportunities of established bricks and mortar businesses, that market traders are, well, just hobbyists,  and you have a recipe for disaster.

The stupidity is, many markets, Lennox included, have small businesses that have traded far longer than some of the bricks and mortar businesses in town.

I am not saying the market does not have it’s own set of unique challenges, it does, ecology of the lake aside, the market is relocated in peak periods a number of times a year and access and egress can be a problem. But to “whack it with a big stick” is NOT the answer, planning and development is the answer, investment in infrastructure is the answer and looking at the situation holistically is the answer.

Who said markets have to bolster CBD businesses? They don’t, what they have to do is be successful business ventures in their own right, in town or out of town and to use this as an excuse to relocate a market, to please the shortsighted, covetous commercial interests at the risk of loosing the market and the amazing people within it, is, frankly, transparent and repellent.

 

John Wheeler

 

There are 1 Comment

  1. Posted by Cr Ben Smith Reply

    I can vouch for and say that, that’s a fairly accurate synopsis of what occurred.

    It was an extremely frustrating process, I’m hopeful that one day the markets will return to their proper location. The markets by the lake is an uniquie experience that just simply cannot be “moved”.

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