Christchurch market stallholders to be homeless again after tough times
Market stalls in central Christchurch are packing up again and their owners say they desperately need a good home.
Stallholders trading alongside Re:Start mall's container shops and foodtrucks will lose their spot when the mall closes for redevelopment at the end of summer.
Stall numbers have dwindled from the 50 who regularly sold handmade goods to locals, cruise passengers and other tourists in Cathedral Square before the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes.
After several shifts fewer than 10 are still in business – a handful most days at Re:Start and one or two back in the square twice a week under a Christchurch City Council tender. There are also arts and crafts stalls on private land on Worcester Boulevard.
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"Every good world city has a great marketplace and that's what Christchurch is lacking, big time," said Kevin Sproule whose stall sells colourful cotton bags, handmade in Thailand to his own designs.
"But we've really got nowhere to go. We're spread out and we've been disowned and disoriented. We just want a nice inner-city market."
Sproule said the closure of the central city and the loss of Lyttelton's cruise berth had hit them hard. They had erected stalls on Cashel St until the tram came through.
Some stallholders set up in Akaroa or Dunedin to meet cruise ships, but this proved troublesome with locals.
"We've just boxed on, but it's been tough. It's hard in a broken city," Sproule said.
Even in Christchurch some retailers resented them, but the stalls were popular with the public; sold quality, handmade products; added colour and character to the city; and paid tax and rent, he said.
"There's a stigma, but it's unfair. We don't sell imported tat. Most of it is local and good quality."
The privately-owned Re:Start site will be redeveloped with a permanent farmers' market, shops, offices and restaurants. It is due to open in late 2018.
Landlord Richard Peebles hopes Re:Start tenants will consider renting some of the space.
Stallholder Stuart Atkinson, who sells crafted silver jewellery and merino clothing, said although business had been hard, ReStart had provided a "buzzy" atmosphere.
Atkinson said the square was too quiet and lacked infrastructure, and the Bridge of Remembrance would be inappropriate.
"We are going to be stuffed unless we can find someone to help us find somewhere. We need foot traffic, without people we'd be dead."
Re:Start market visitors Tonya Marriott and Joe Bowen said they preferred markets to shops.
"It would be a shame to see it go. It's much better than the malls," said Bowen.
Marriott said she liked the market "vibe" and enjoyed the music, the food, and the buskers.
Ceciel DelaRue,Christchurch City Council's acting head of urban regeneration, urban design and heritage, said the council gave markets grants and rented out council land or brokered the use of private sites.
The council was supportive of markets across the city and recognised their "valuable role" in the city's regeneration, DelaRue said.