OPINION: Nelson is rightly proud of its Saturday market. Not only is it popular with residents in the region, but it is also a massive drawcard for tourists and visitors from around New Zealand.
The secret to the market's success is based on the range and quality of products on offer and the fact that the majority are locally produced.
The market was the brainchild of Nita Knight, who set it up 30 years ago. The market's 200-plus stalls showcase Nelson products and produce every Saturday in Montgomery Square.
Dunedin importer Phil Tait has taken the organisers to task over being told there was no room for him at the market.
Mr Tait has been selling hats, T-shirts and sunglasses at the market for 17 years. On his return for the summer season, he was told there was no room for his stall. He claims that he found seven empty spaces when he visited the market one Saturday.
Mr Tait is not alone in his complaint against the organisers - he has allies in the form of cherry stall operator Gary Bignell and company director Victor Rieter, who sells health jewellery at trade shows and other arts and crafts markets.
Spokeswoman for the market Marilyn Jenks says the general rule is that only Nelson goods and produce are allowed to be sold at the market and Mr Tait and Mr Rieter fall foul of that by selling imported goods.
Ms Jenks admits that imported goods are a continuing issue. She also makes the point that there are vacant spaces when stallholders fail to turn up on the day for a variety of reasons.
There also needs to be a balance as to what is sold. Too much jewellery on sale and another stallholder will be offered the Sunday Market.
Markets are now firmly established in the Kiwi culture with many of them operating - and new ones adding to the list each year - in towns and cities throughout New Zealand.
Why so? They give families a chance to combine a weekly shopping trip around the market to stock up on local produce while catching up with friends. For tourists, markets provide a great insight into the regional heartland and are an ideal place to sample local fare, meet the locals and experience the New Zealand way of life.
In these tough economic times, markets offer good value for money for shoppers and provide small businesses with an affordable shop front. The markets also draw people into the city, benefiting established retailers. Buying fresh at market stalls has also redefined many items and customers are enthused by discovering that fresh, home-grown fruit and vegetables are in a class of their own.
To maintain the integrity of keeping it local, rules need to be adhered to. Ms Jenks makes a fair point that the vision for the market was for local goods and that anyone selling goods produced in Nelson gets priority. That's as it should be.
However, when you insist on goods being locally produced, then you have to stick to that without exception. If not, the accusation can easily be levelled at the organisers that there is bias is at play. Perception is everything.
- The Nelson Mail