Mar­ket on bor­rowed time

The Hutt News - - FRONT PAGE - NI­CHOLAS BOY­ACK AND DAMIAN GE­ORGE

One of Lower Hutt’s big­gest at­trac­tions – the River­bank Mar­ket – is fac­ing an up­hill bat­tle for sur­vival.

The Satur­day morn­ing mar­ket on Rutherford St at­tracts about 10,000 peo­ple each week, in­clud­ing many from Welling­ton, but it is also ama­jor cause of con­ges­tion.

That is be­cause traf­fic ac­cess­ing the Melling Bridge backs up for kilo­me­tres and round­abouts near the mar­ket grind to a halt.

A com­plaint from nearby busi­ness Har­vey Nor­man about prob­lems ac­cess­ing its carpark re­sulted in Hutt City Coun­cil tri­alling a new mar­ket lay­out and traf­fic man­age­ment sys­tem for four weeks, cost­ing $4000 a day.

With those changes now set to be­come per­ma­nent, coun­cil­lors have de­cided to charge $2 an hour for park­ing at the mar­ket from July to re­cover the an­nual $213,000 cost.

The mar­ket will be re­tained un­til Au­gust next year, when the lease with op­er­a­tor Gra­ham Hamil­ton ex­pires.

But the $2 park­ing fee ap­pears to be un­pop­u­lar with mar­ket pa­trons, with re­ac­tion on so­cial me­dia sug­gest­ing many will balk at the charge and shop else­where.

The new mar­ket lay­out has also sparked some stall­hold­ers to leave, while plans to up­grade the river stop­banks be­tween the Melling and Ewen bridges would sig­nif­i­cantly re­duce the size of the mar­ket car park.

‘‘It has been quite clear for a num­ber of years that the longterm fu­ture of that site is un­ten­able be­cause the car park will be sig­nif­i­cantly re­duced in size,’’ the coun­cil’s city de­vel­op­ment man­ager Gary Craig said.

Coun­cil­lors faced a dif­fi­cult de­ci­sion on the mar­ket’s fu­ture be­cause it was pop­u­lar and pro­vided ob­vi­ous com­mu­nity ben­e­fits, he said. It was, how­ever, a busi­ness and the coun­cil could not sub­sidise it by pro­vid­ing free traf­fic man­age­ment.

Al­though some peo­ple on so­cial me­dia said they would in­stead go to other mar­kets, Craig had his doubts. Peo­ple al­ready paid for park­ing at Welling­ton’s Har­bour­side Mar­ket and they would get used to pay­ing in Lower Hutt, he said.

The coun­cil wanted to re­tain a mar­ket in the city and was look­ing at other sites but there were none large enough. It was pos­si­ble sev­eral smaller spe­cialised mar­kets could be used.

Hamil­ton de­clined to speak to Stuff for this story but in an ear­lier interview said the new lay­out and traf­fic con­trols were hav­ing a neg­a­tive im­pact.

An­nie’s Bak­ery stall­holder Lui Gun­der­sen said peo­ple would stop com­ing to the mar­ket if they were charged for park­ing. ‘‘It will just be­come an­other rea­son why they don’t come to the mar­ket.’’

Shopper Rus­sell Erik­sen, from Lower Hutt, agreed.

‘‘If the coun­cil charged $2 for park­ing, I prob­a­bly wouldn’t come any­more to be hon­est.’’

There were other mar­kets in John­sonville or Welling­ton City he could shop at if a Lower Hutt mar­ket was scrapped.

But fel­low shopper Maria Hakaraia said al­though a park­ing charge seemed ‘‘a lit­tle over the top’’, she would stay loyal.

‘‘It’s still the most af­ford­able place to get good food. I would still come here re­gard­less.’’

MONIQUE FORD/STUFF

Shop­pers flock to the mar­ket on an­other busy Satur­day. Above, An­nie’s Bak­ery stall­holder Lui Gun­der­sen says peo­ple will stop com­ing to the mar­ket if they are charged for park­ing.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.