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Daniel Gray of Maclean Community Markets Inc. this month presented a cheque for $1,000 to Peter Watt, to assist the Gulmarrad Rural Fire Service. Mrs Irons said any funds left over once the markets books have been settled would be donated to community-based organisations. Image: Contributed

Maclean market veterans sacked

Geoff Helisma |

Clarence Valley Council (CVC) has sacked Maclean Community Markets despite decades of donating all funds raised to various charities, volunteer organisations and community infrastructure projects.

Councillors decided in December 2017 to “terminate the Maclean Community Markets Incorporated licence within fourteen (14) business days unless the operator is able to demonstrate … complete compliance with the tender requirements”.

Staff had advised councillors that none of the expressions of interest to run the markets complied with CVC’s market policy and that the current operators of the markets had not, “despite requests”, provided compliant information regarding insurance and plans to manage waste, car parking and noise.

Market stalwart Betty Irons OAM said her association had done its best to comply with CVC’s request.

She said the council had declined an invitation for CVC staff to attend the market on a Saturday to nut out what the council required because “staff don’t work on the weekend”.

So it came as a shock when council staff turned up “unannounced” at the Saturday May 12 market to advise each of the stallholders and the market operators that Maclean Lions would be conducting the markets from June onwards.

Mrs Irons cited a June 2017 CVC letter from “when we applied for the licence and it says ‘one month’s written notice is required by either party advising termination of agreement … please confirm to proceed with a month to month arrangement’”.

This was followed up in February with a letter alerting the markets that their submission did not address waste, car park, noise and insurance.

“We had a $10million insurance policy in place, they wanted $20million and we updated it – we have never claimed against the insurance,” she said.

A letter dated April 18 advised that their tenure would be terminated; “there was no mention of a termination date”, however, she said.

Whilst this was happening, Mrs Irons said negotiations were occurring and that her grandson Daniel had filled out a 60-page application and taken a day off work to attend a meeting – at which he was told he would have to come back another day.

She said that up until the May 12 market “we were quite confident we had met the council’s demands”.

“[But] we would not go back if they begged us,” she said; “we trusted council to keep its word and act in an honourable fashion … we shouldn’t have.”

Meanwhile, CVC issued a media release announcing the Lions as the new market operator.

“I think they are a good fit and I’m sure they will be supported by the people of Maclean and surrounds,” works and civil director Troy Anderson said.

He said: “Council had tried to work with the previous operator to overcome problems with its tender … however council did not get any information to show it would comply…

“…We wrote to the operators in February inviting them to a meeting to discuss ways they could meet the tender requirements.

“Later in February we got a letter in response that fell well short of the requirements.

“We subsequently organised a meeting for mid March … where we outlined the level of detail that was required for the plans, provided maps of the space and outlined council’s requirements.

“We advised them to contact us if they needed further help and gave two weeks to provide the information. We also made a number of calls that weren’t returned.

“On April 18, when we still hadn’t received the required information, we wrote to them saying the current arrangements for them to operate the market could no longer continue.

“It is unfortunate, but council has to ensure equity, public safety and to protect the area.

“We’d like to thank the previous operator for their service and we did what we could to get them to submit a tender that met council’s requirements, but unfortunately that didn’t happen.”

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