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Big assault mounted on Queen Victoria Markets - Take note

"The redevelopment and remodelling of the Queen Victoria Market (QVM) plus changes in its functions proposed by the City of Melbourne, led by the Lord Mayor Robert Doyle, should be ringing alarm bells amongst Melburnians. This is one of the biggest assaults ever mounted on the QVM in the history of Melbourne." (Julianne Bell, Protectors of Public Lands Victoria Inc.)


Report on Queen Victoria Market and Development Proposals by City of Melbourne [1]

In the early 1970s the City of Melbourne, with the support of the Victorian State Government, proposed to demolish the QVM and replace it with a combined Trade Centre, office and hotel. The Save the Victorian Market Committee was formed. Then Norm Gallagher and the Builders Labourers Federation (BLF) . put Green Bans on the demolition of the QVM and guaranteed its survival from demolition and redevelopment. The QVM was put on the Historic Buildings Register. There is talk of nominating the site for World Heritage and it certainly fills an important place of Melbourne’s cultural heritage. Twenty years later, prior to his death in 2006, John Cummins (a former BLF official and then CFMEU official) gave market stall holders assurances that the QVM would be defended by the CFMEU should there be any retreat from agreements to save the Place. (This information paraphrases quotes from Dave Kerin’s history of the BLF.)

I have not analysed in detail the destruction of heritage should the City of Melbourne’s plans be implemented. It is certain that, however, that the current plans will destroy the social heritage of the QVM, maintaining the sheds as a kind of “Disneyland” market, which in the long term would not be sustainable

I thought it useful to look, firstly, at the fact that the QVM is possibly one of the biggest suppliers of fresh and processed food, as well as other retail items such as clothing, in the inner Metropolitan area. Dr Miriam Faine, who is a Convenor of the Friends of OVM Facebook group and who is alarmed at the changes proposed, says that the QVM currently supports traders who will lose their business if the development proceeds; offers a voice to market customers who shop regularly at the market (and are not 'visitors' but part of the market community); preserves the market as an every day shopping space for the people of Melbourne; and, she argues, provides a traditional market model with many small independent traders competing on freshness, variety, value and sustainability.

To the Lord Mayor and Councillors the market is just a show piece and a tourist attraction as they appear to have no clues that the market is an integral part of people's lives and plays an important part in supplying the metropolis with food. As far as I know the Lord Mayor of Melbourne does not live in the municipality of Melbourne and possibly has no experience of shopping for the family every week in the QVM.

The QVM is not just a market for the municipality of Melbourne but for a huge radius of suburbs. One reason that the Market serves this vast hinterland is because of the parking availability at the Market and also in the streets around, although complaints are made that charges are excessive compared to other shopping centres. There are 700 spaces at the QVM plus another 500 which are now under threat in the surrounding streets. It would be disastrous if they were removed. See the web page - http://au.parkopedia.com/parking/carpark/queen_victoria_market/3000/melbourne/ - which provides a run down of all available parking within reasonable reach for QVM patrons. There is certainly a case for retaining cheap parking easily accessible for QVM patrons, within the context of a broader objective of maximising space efficient and sustainable modes.

Public transport advocate Ian Hundley has made a great contribution to this report. His comments concerning transport have been included below.

With regard to the count of daily traffic numbers over the last 10 years for major arterial roads (Dudley Street, Peel Street, Victoria Street, Elizabeth Street) near to or abutting the QVM, it appears that these numbers have been static, or even declined, during this period. This is welcome news and confirms that Melbourne really only works as well owing to the fact that a substantial proportion of visitors travel by sustainable means. This is not the case with most of the suburban activity centres which are highly car dependent and face increased road traffic congestion as a consequence. The tram lines mentioned here in relation to the QVM connect with north and western suburbs.

An emerging threat for the north-west part of the City of Melbourne is the Victorian State Government's proposed Western Distributor which includes a feeder into the Melbourne CBD from the Westgate Freeway. Ian Hundley comments that he is of the view that, as this is a Transurban inspired toll road, they might well be looking to maximise road traffic numbers in this area.

We understand that daily visitors to/users of the market vary between about 22,000 and 32,000 with the greatest numbers being on Saturdays. Furthermore we understand that the QVM administration reports that a phenomenal ten (10) million people visit the markets every year. We do not know how many people visit the QVM as their one and only destination or how many people have multiple destinations on journeys within the CBD, one of which is the QVM.

It appears that the QVM, as currently configured, does not cater very well for the many patrons who use shopping trolleys, a design issue mainly. It is also an issue for public transport users in the area with no services on Elizabeth Street and Victoria Street being low floor. This will improve over time, but it is not happening quickly enough.

We consider it would help to get many more people onto public transport if a number of problems were addressed. For example, the Victoria Street tram corridor is not continuous which makes it difficult for quite a few people and there is no ready access to North Melbourne station from the QVM. Also, low floor trams would be a plus, especially for shoppers at QVM.

Finally with regard to transport and planning issues, I have heard that plans are being formulated by the City of Melbourne for Franklin Street to be closed; for QVM car parking to be removed; and for three 50 storey tower blocks to be built on the site. Franklin Street provides very useful access from Victoria Street through to the RMIT complexes on Swanston Street and through to the legal world in Lonsdale Street and William Street. Predictions are there could be disastrous traffic congestion resulting from the Franklin Street closure.

The QVM is seen as of central importance to people's lives enabling them to live within strict budgets. The food prices are the most reasonable in the metropolis. One is able to buy food items - costs go down in seasons of plenty. Also prices go down close to closing times so traders can dispose of goods. The QVM does not serve just residents in surrounding suburbs but also the international student population increasingly living in high rise apartments in the city. If a large part of the QVM is closed down then where will numbers shop? There are few Big Block Coles and Woolworths in the city. Many of the thousands of tertiary students who live in inner Melbourne seldom dine out. They need to watch their budget and want to shop locally and economically to cook at home.

Another point is that numbers of stall holders provide surplus food to “Second Bite” and charities so these services would be lost if the QVM trading were to be drastically reduced in size, as Lord Mayor Doyle’s “redevelopment” proposes.

The “deli” shops specialise in ethnic foods. The Greek deli shops, for instance, have a huge number of clients from the Greek Community from all over Melbourne. .

Also interesting to note would be just how many top City restaurants and cafes obtain their food from the market. I used to go to the organic foods section and encountered many restaurant owners/chefs purchasing fresh supplies.

My parents used to go every week from Camberwell for about 50 years! And I used to go to the QVM by tram when living in Parkville and North Carlton for many years. Many Melburnians remain loyal to certain stall holders and keep up patronage for a lifetime.

Queen Victoria Market is very special. For many years it been an effective antidote to mega sized, corporate retail food distribution and it needs to be retained as such for the benefit of the growing numbers of local, inner city residents including students, the loyal shoppers from the middle suburbs, as well as the visitors to the city.

There is a related topic which needs to be dealt with separately. It is difficult to imagine where fresh food will be grown given the rapid loss of arable food producing land with the spread of housing developments. The question arose some years ago when the Brumby Government extended the urban growth boundary to allow spread of residential housing into arable farming land. . Melbourne is now heading for 8 million population. Will we soon be reliant on imported food?

Signed:

Julianne Bell
Secretary
Protectors of Public Lands Victoria Inc.
PO Box 197
Parkville 3052

Mobile: 0408022408

Date: 3 July 2015

NOTES

This article is slightly represented from the original letter signed by Julianne Bell for Protectors of Public Lands Victoria Inc., which was entitled: "REPORT ON QUEEN VICTORIA MARKET AND DEVELOPMENT PROPOSALS BY THE CITY OF MELBOURNE."

Comments

The point cannot be made too clearly that The Victoria Markets are Public Land. On public land we citizens have rights that we do not have in private shopping malls, where permission may be denied even to photograph, let alone demonstrate, give out hand-outs, address the public etc.

Another point which cannot be overemphasised is that there should be no question of any level of government simply selling off land that belongs to the public. It is OUR land. It would not matter if the market were not the historic site it happens to be. What matters is that the people should dispose of their own land. And should have the final say in whether or not to retain it.

Successive Victorian governments have continued to aggressively invite huge numbers of economic immigrants to Victoria. They have then used the resulting population growth to ram home excessive privatisation and overdevelopment. Overpopulation is being used in a corrupt way to pressure citizens and take political power from them and give it to developers and corporations, friends of the big end of town which is trying to take over every decision that might affect the rest of us.

The Victoria Markets are truly an historic landmark for Victoria, marking the place where country and city came together, as they have traditionally from the first towns and cities. Markets are bastions of local political and economic participation which is too important to give to multi-national road, carpark and high-rise builders. These markets are a very big item to steal from the public.