About 300 people rallied outside the Queen Victoria Market on April 28 to protest the City of Melbourne’s $250 million plans to “redevelop” the market as an entertainment space and gourmet food precinct.
The council bought a prime piece of land next to the market in 2014 for $76 million. It then sold it to developer PDG for $33 million which plans to build a 200 metre high-rise tower. The council plans to use the cash to fund the redevelopment.
The market was threatened with redevelopment into a trade centre, office and hotel complex in the 1970s. Public opposition led to the market being classified by the National Trust and listed on the Historic Buildings Register, which means the site itself cannot be redeveloped.
The proposal involves temporarily dismantling and removing the heritage-listed market sheds to build underground storage and services. The sheds will be repaired and then reinstalled.
The rally was chaired by national president of the National Union of Workers Caterina Cinanni. Speakers included Phil Cleary and Mary-Lou Howie from Friends of Queen Victoria Market.
Speaking on behalf of stallholders at the market, Phil Cleary, who ran against Lord Mayor Robert Doyle last year, condemned the redevelopment plans as an act of vandalism and said the market did not need the massive redevelopment planned by Melbourne City Council. This would only serve to hurt the market, he said.
“We have a foolhardy Little Nero sitting up in Town Hall who wants to destroy this market,” Cleary said, before urging the community to come together in defence of the market.
Howie from Friends of Queen Victoria Market spoke of the value the market brings to the greater community and declared that the Queen Victoria Market should remain a “people’s market”. Dave Kerin from Earthworker Cooperative read a poem he wrote about the market to close the rally.
A petition currently circulating demands the Legislative Council:
1. Urgently legislate to prevent the dismantling and excavation of the Queen Victoria Market;
2. Put a moratorium on future market development until there has been proper consultation with the market traders and the community at large;
3. Affirm the Queen Victoria Market as a historic, working market serving local residents and visitors, which reflects the cultural history, diversity and palates of Melbourne and Victoria; and
4. Consider the impact of any changes to the market on the livelihoods of traders and the heritage value and ongoing viability of the Queen Victoria Market.
[For more updates on the campaign follow Friends of Queen Victoria Market on Facebook.]