By Taylah Eastwell
The future of the Cockatoo Country Market hangs in the balance after Cardinia Shire Council withdrew permission for the market to operate at the community complex.
President of the Cockatoo Country Market committee Karen Benson said committee members were first informed that a problem had been identified with the market operating at the Cockatoo Community Complex in December last year.
“We were informed just before our December market and we had a meeting with the traffic engineer from council to discuss ways that we could make the site work better in his opinion. We ran that market as per our agreement and were only informed there was a bigger issue in mid-January,” Ms Benson said.
According to Ms Benson, Cardinia Shire Council cited parking and traffic concerns as the reason behind the withdrawal of permission to operate the market at the site.
“They did not want us blocking off the car park, and there was concern that it is on a major arterial road and wanted to minimise the amount of people crossing that road and doing U-turns,” she said.
“We want to minimise all those things too of course, because we want to have a safe market.
But having held the market at the Pakenham Road complex for the past six years, the committee believe the market is perfectly safe.
“In our mind it’s a very safe place,” Ms Benson said.
“When moving between the indoor and outdoor space, there is no interaction between pedestrians and vehicle traffic,” she said.
Cardinia Shire Council Infrastructure Services Manager Andrew Barr said “there are some concerns about traffic management and safety for market goers”.
“Council understands the Cockatoo Community Market is a much-loved local attraction and is very popular with locals and visitors alike,” Mr Barr said.
“In the best interests of community safety, we are continuing to work closely with representatives from the market to find an appropriate and long-term solution,” he said.
In the meantime, the market has had no option but to move to the park for its February market, with the committee holding concerns over the makeshift location not being “visible” to people passing though town.
“Less people will see the market and come along. We get a certain amount of people just coming through that stop. Even local people might forget the market is on and stop when they see it, but down at the park you can’t even see that a market is on until you get down there,” she explained.
“Moving the market to a less desirable location will effectively end the market over time, due to issues with visibility and lack of access to both indoor and outdoor spaces,” she said.
“There are lots of micro-businesses that come to the market that do not otherwise have direct customer interaction. The markets are literally there only way to get their products to ‘market’,” she said.
Gembrook MP Brad Battin created a petition urging Cardinia Shire Council to secure a permanent all-weather location in Cockatoo for the market. The petition received over 400 signatures in its first day from concerned locals.
“Cockatoo Country Market has become a gem of Cockatoo over the past six years, run by volunteers it not only supports local small businesses and local tourism but just last year alone raised $5,000 to donate directly back into its community,” Mr Battin said.
In what Mr Battin described as “the perfect example of community spirit”, the market offers grants of up to $500 for local community groups through money raised from stallholder fees.
“It is disappointing the Council are dragging their feet on working on a suitable location in Cockatoo for future markets, with the committee still waiting on a response about their future,” Mr Battin said.
Mr Battin will be at the market alongside the committee on Saturday 6 February with a hard copy version of the petition for people to sign.