Farmers markets get council lifeline

Freo Farmers Market coordinator Kylie Wheatley celebrates the Bruce Lee Oval deal with mayor Hannah Fitzhardinge. Photo by Pete Zuvela.

THE Freo Farmers Market has been given a last-minute reprieve and will move to Bruce Lee Oval in the New Year.

The popular Sunday markets have operated in the shady playgrounds of Fremantle College on Lefroy Road for around a decade, but recently the school told operator Kylie Wheatley it now needed the space for demountable classes.

At Wednesday’s ordinary meeting, Fremantle council unanimously voted for a three-year sponsorship deal that waives 80 per cent of the oval booking fee, allowing Ms Wheatley to kick off again on January 8 next year.

Ms Wheatley said the school’s decision went against a previous agreement, but the markets have survived numerous obstacles before.

“We have moved the market numerous times around the Fremantle College site due to builds and flooding,” Ms Wheatley said.

“We also used Bruce Lee Oval carpark to pop up in during Covid.

“The feedback during Covid really allowed us to see how we are in fact a vital link to community for many elderly people and young families who rely on the market for their socialising as well as their food shopping.”

Ms Wheatley said until Wednesday’s decision, the situation had been stressful for stallholders, musicians, kids entertainers and shoppers, though many were still concerned about the oval’s lack of shade.

Exposure

Looking for the silver lining, she told stallholders by email this week that Bruce Lee would give the markets more exposure from being next to busy South Street, which she hopes will translate into more customers.

“We also have a lot of room to grow if needed,” Ms Wheatley said, also pointing to the site’s ample parking.

At Wednesday’s meeting mayor Hannah Fitzhardinge said moving the markets to Bruce Lee Oval could be used to encourage the state government to create a “heart” in Beaconsfield, something she says many people believe is lacking.

“The propsed redevelopment of the Tafe site gives us an opportunity around a heart and I’m interested if we might partner with the state government to say it’s an existing, thriving, beating heart that might fit quite well with a future, planned development,” Ms Fitzhardinge said.

She said the growth of the area might also open up opportunities for Ms Wheatley to seek sponsorship and funding from other organisations.

“We’ve got an expectation over time that the amount of fees we are waiving, we’d like to see that reduced, but there is a good opportunity to knock on some other doors,” she said.

The sponsorsphip deal is also something of an about-face after the council played hard-ball with South Beach markets operator Georgie Adeane over a $30,000 power bill it was subsidising, which ultimately led to those markets shutting down completely last year.

That issue was broached by a couple of councillors, with Marija Vujcic wondering how the Farmers Market sponsorship deal compared to what was on offer for South Beach.

Council’s city business director Matt Hammond told the meeting the current sponsorsphip deal wouldn’t cost the council as much as the South Beach arrangement.

by STEVE GRANT

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