Market on borrowed time
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.’’
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.