Market owner stalls on plot for trader

OUTSIDER: Importer Phil Tait has been frustrated in his attempts to secure a regular stall at Nelson Market.
OUTSIDER: Importer Phil Tait has been frustrated in his attempts to secure a regular stall at Nelson Market.

A Dunedin importer who has been selling on the summer market circuit in Nelson for 19 years is challenging the Nelson Market's excuse there is no room for him.

Phil Tait has been selling hats, t-shirts and sunglasses at the Nelson Market in Montgomery Square for 17 years. He was told on arrival in Nelson several weeks ago the market was full and there was no space for him. Mr Tait made a spot check at a recent market about 8am and photographed seven empty spaces.

He is one of at least three stall operators upset at the situation. Cherry stall operator Gary Bignell and company director Victor Rieter who sold health jewellery at trade shows and other arts and crafts markets, are equally annoyed.

Nelson Market spokeswoman Marilyn Jenks said that the general rule was that only local, Nelson goods and produce could be sold at the market while in the case of Mr Tait and Mr Rieter, they each sold imported goods.

"The key focus is Nelson crafts, products and produce but imported goods are a continuing issue," Ms Jenks said.

The Nelson Market was established 30 years ago and is owned by Nita Knight. It has evolved into a significant regional attraction. The market's 200-plus stalls showcase Nelson products and produce every Saturday in Montgomery Square.

"Her [Ms Knight] vision was always that the market was for local goods. anyone selling goods produced in Nelson gets priority," Ms Jenks said.

She said if space was available, imported goods would sometimes be allowed into the Saturday Market on a one-off basis but otherwise they were directed to the Sunday Market.

"If their product is imported, it would have been explained to them that they will be offered a site at the Sunday Market only.

Mr Bignell said "people were being disadvantaged for a number of reasons" but it seemed to come down to a personal bias.

He operated a stall from outside the Midcity Lodge which was on the rim of the market, and his son operated a stall within the market.

Mr Bignell said he grew cherries in Tasman and in Blenheim and leased a block of land down south.

He did not think aspects of the way the market was run were fair, and said he was speaking up on behalf of other stallholders who were reluctant to comment.

Mr Rieter said he had tried on a number of occasions to get into the market, but had not been allowed. He said the argument that imported goods were not allowed would stack up if there were no imported products at the market, but there were.

"Keeping it local is a great reason but I know there's imported content there."

Mr Rieter said he too had noticed a number of empty stall sites at the market.

Ms Jenks said vacant spaces were often the result of stallholders failing to turn up on the day. She said Mr Tait had in the past been allowed in if there was a vacancy on the day.

"We get people who book and don't show up. We often don't know until 8am if there will be a [spare] site.

"It's an ongoing problem for us, but we understand things happen - someone's car might break down, but by then it's often too late to let others know there is a vacant space at the market."

She said there were increasing numbers of stallholders who stayed throughout the year instead of seasonally, which meant the casual sites were not as readily available as they once were.

"At this time of year there is tremendous pressure for sites. Allocation is not a matter of who's first, but it's certainly not personal either.

Ms Jenks said it was also important to maintain variety at the market.

"If someone wants to come in with something we already have too much of, such as jewellery, they will be offered the Sunday Market only, or advised to try again later when the balance may have changed," Ms Jenks said.