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Rumour leads to angry defence of Sunday market operator

July 13th, 2011
[by David Armstrong]

Rumour and speculation about the future of the Sunday market following a request for information by the Motueka Community Board brought an agitated crowd of mainly market supporters to the Board's July meeting yesterday afternoon.

The defiant atmosphere among the supporters of Judy Roper, who has held the licence to operate the market, seems to have arisen from a brief mention on Motueka Online, reporting on the Board's June meeting (read it here), that the Board members knew very little about the market's operation and rules and would like to know more.

(We reported: 'The Sunday Market lease is coming up for renewal, and while the board has no intention of seeking any changes to the current operation it decided to at least acquaint itself with the lease conditions and rules.'

This, combined with some anecdotal comments about a few complaints, began a story that appears - as seen by angry comments during the Board meeting open forum - to have evolved into a certainty that the Board wanted to take control of the market. Board member Paul Hawkes said he had been swamped with phone calls expressing this fear.

About 30 people attended the meeting, crammed into every available space in the Council's meeting room. This was certainly a record attendance in recent years. About two-thirds left after the Sunday market issue was discussed.

The licence to operate the market, which Judy Roper has held for the past 23 years, expired almost unnoticed on June 30th. Judy is continuing the operation but the TDC must confirm a new licence as it operates "at the pleasure of Council", said TDC Property Manager Jim Frater, who addressed the meeting. Both Jim and the Community Board said they are happy with the way it is being run, but Board members also said they wished to exercise their statutory right to provide their recommendation and approval for licensees.

Following Jim Frater's explanation of the rules around the licence, discussion showed considerable levels of emotion, sensitivity and defensiveness around any criticism. For example, David Ogilvie's report that he had received an angry complaint somehow turned into David himself being accused of wanting to put a bomb under the market. Several people interjected from the room and were patiently heard.

David then spent some time trying to defuse the anger, pointing out that the Board never had any intention to run a take-over campaign. Board member Cliff Satherley said they were "making a mountain out of a molehill", while fellow member Mark Chapman said "the wrong end of the stick has been grabbed here".

Judy Roper spoke from the floor and produced a document setting out her view of the situation. In it she said referred to "the proposal for the Motueka Community Board to take over, operate and manage the Motueka Sunday Market", reported a petition she had circulated last Sunday which received 256 signatures, and said "the wife of the Chairman of the Tasman Bay Promotions Association was overheard stating on Sunday how 'they intend to run and promote the Market once they receive control'". [She was referring to Liz Salt.]

It is becoming clear to surprised onlookers that there is criticism of the market from some quarters, possibly from people who would like to run it or whose stalls have not received permission to trade there, and from people such as Cr Jack Inglis who say the market is not sufficiently promoted. It is also clear that Judy has some fiercely loyal supporters.

Judy told the meeting that "the wider Motueka community benefits from the influx of people from outside of Motueka into town where they not only enjoy [the market] but also circulate among the shops, restaurants and bars from time to time, increasing turnover and contributing financially to the Motueka community".

She defended her management by writing that she promotes the market seven days a week, and spends the income she receives from stall rentals on "removal of rubbish, insurance, shed hire, vehicle towage, stationery, advertising and running a home office".

Before moving on to the next item of business, there was a loud demand from onlooker Richard Easton that a decision be made then. This was rejected as the matter would be dealt with as part of the agenda.

Later in the meeting the Board agreed to continue with the process of communicating with the TDC and assisting with decision making, as required by the rules, as the licence to operate for the next five years is confirmed. The Board expects that TDC will come up with a recommendation for one of three options - to renew Judy's licence, to ask for expressions of interest, or to put the licence up for tender - which the Community Board could then debate and decide on.


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