Community & Business

22 February, 2024

Markets in meltdown

A LOSS of between 30-60% in trade has some Mareeba Market stallholders demanding a return to its previous location at the entrance to the town, and by the feedback from locals, marketgoers overwhelmingly agree with them.

“We think it needs to move back to the 100 Park, before any more stallholders stop coming”
“We think it needs to move back to the 100 Park, before any more stallholders stop coming”

Despite stallholders saying they’re losing customers every month, market organisers say business has been better than ever, and their statistics show a “positive growth” in the overall market. 

In 2022, the St Thomas’ P&F Mareeba Market moved from 100 Park, next to the Mareeba Heritage Museum, to the Mareeba Turf Club, taking the event away from the main drag.

Almost two years later, stallholders and marketgoers are far from happy with the situation, with locals making it clear on Facebook they want change.

“We think it needs to move back to the 100 Park, before any more stallholders stop coming. Constructive communication is needed between St Thomas’s P & C and the council ASAP for the benefit of the town,” one comment said. 

“I don’t go to any of them now. The promoters need to read these comments and take note that the locals are not happy with the split, and we would like to have them all back as one at the 100 Park where they were successful and well attended,” another commenter said.

The Express attended the latest market and spoke to several stallholders, all of whom demanded change.

“We just want to go back to that site – we used to get so much more foot traffic, with many people who were just driving by, saw the market was on and stopped,” one stallholder said.

“Now, we’re in a quiet residential area, there is no passing traffic.”

“We are trading at only 30% of what we used to,” an angry stallholder said.

“This is our livelihood – we’re not just doing a stall at the market for some extra money – this is our business and we were never told why we had to move to the racecourse in the first place.

“There were a lot more stalls all around the front of the grandstand, but they have now all gone.”

One stallholder said she was sad that the Mareeba market was no longer the “second best on the Tablelands”.

“Mareeba was pretty much second to Yungbaurra on the list of markets in the region – I reckon we’re probably the worst now.”

According to St Thomas’ School principal Paul Rayner, road safety was the main reason the markets moved to the racecourse. 

In a flyer distributed in 2022, the committee explained that putting traffic management in place “would have meant additional expenses, time of set-up on market days and less available parking to market visitors and stall holders”.

He acknowledged that the move from a main road to a quiet suburban area caused a few difficulties for stallholders but said the move was necessary to keep everyone safe. 

“The markets were growing and needed a bigger footprint to ensure we ran them safely. Because of the growth, it was pushing beyond the boundary limit, and it was moving into areas that were State Government road areas and not owned by council,” Mr Rayner said.

However, a Department of Transport and Main Roads spokesperson said they “had not been involved in any decision by Mareeba Shire Council or St Thomas’ P&F association to move the markets” but were aware of concerns made.

“(TMR) is aware of some local concerns about road safety on market days through our involvement in the local Traffic Advisory Committee, which also includes the Queensland Police Service and Mareeba Shire Council,” the spokesperson said.

When asked by The Express whether the market would move back to its original, Mr Rayner was firm in his answer that they would not. 

“The people who make these comments (asking to move back) quite often are not at the forefront of having to factor in things like being aware there are more stallholders … and addressing the safety of our children on roads and in traffic and that sort of stuff,” he said.

“The reality is we have to factor in a safe environment away from massive passing traffic and big trucks, and the Turf Club provides more space for stores, and gives us more opportunity for fundraising for the school, and people can park right there at the gate and not have to cross any busy roads.”

Stallholders say that even if traffic management was the reason behind the move to the racecourse site, they question whether there is any data to back up that a problem exists, and if so, question why Yungaburra is allowed to operate in similar traffic conditions.

“We would even pitch in to pay a lollipop lady to allow people to cross the highway safely – whatever it takes, I’m sure there’s a solution.”

While Mareeba Shire Council did not play a major role in the move, a spokesperson said they were willing to help them move back to the 100 Park if they were asked. 

“Mareeba Shire Council’s only role in this was to assist the committee in this move by advertising the new location of their market,” the spokesperson said. 

“Council would be willing to negotiate an agreement for the use of the park from any community organisation, should a request be received.”


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