Growing market looks for more land

By Mike Dinsdale

The Saturday morning Whangarei Growers Market is proving so popular it needs to expand. Photo/File
The Saturday morning Whangarei Growers Market is proving so popular it needs to expand. Photo/File

The popular Whangarei Growers Market has become so successful it needs to expand and has asked Whangarei District Council if it can spread into a neighbouring ratepayer-owned site in Water St.

Since starting 15 years ago, the Whangarei Growers Market (WGM) has blossomed into a major economic driver, pumping more than $9 million a year into the local economy with jobs for more than 100 people.

But it's growing too large for its site in the public carpark in Water St and the Whangarei Growers Market Association Ltd has put a proposal to the council seeking to expand onto the vacant former Z Energy site next door. Around 4000 people attend the markets every week.

The proposal went before the council's 20/20 Inner City Revitalisation Committee on Wednesday where it was agreed that the proposal would be received and council staff would report back with a detailed proposed outline for the site.

Councillor Greg Innes said the market was getting a lot of recognition for Whangarei and is an integral part of the community's development.

"On Saturday mornings it's quite vibrant. I go probably every second week and it's a place of congregation," Cr Innes said.

Mayor Sheryl Mai said while she is a "fierce supporter" of the markets she did not want the public to think that by receiving the proposal the council was endorsing it as there would likely be other groups and people keen to use the site.

"We have to make sure the correct proposal for that site is accepted by council," Ms Mai said.

The committee voted to also go ahead with the demolition of the old concrete block car wash building on the site and allow the growers market to temporarily use that bit of the site.

A report on the market's impacts, carried out by NorthTec earlier this year deemed the WGM a community asset, with its annual turnover of $3.66 million creating an additional $5.84 million of activity for the Northland economy. Ninety people were directly employed, it said, with a further 22 downstream. But, it found, its economic impacts were less significant than the social impacts of the market as it helped a growing awareness of the contribution of fresh fruit and vegetables to public health.

Market co-administrator Murray Burns said the study showed the market's value, and he and fellow administrator Robert Bradley are keen to expand the market and want more carparking for shoppers and a site to park buses to bring people from the district's rest homes.

- Northern Advocate

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