call to move world famous tourist attraction
A long-time resident of Eumundi said: “We want our town back” and blamed the “rampant growth” of its famous markets for having “suffocated” the town.
Eumundi is known for its craft markets which started in 1979 and operate two days a week with 600 stalls and over 1.6 million annual visitors.
But resident Susan Russell said she spoke on behalf of many locals who felt the markets were taking away the simple pleasures of living in a small country town.
Ms Russell, who has lived on an area just outside Eumundi for three decades, said a growing number of townspeople “felt suffocated” by the markets held every Saturday and Wednesday in the town center .
Over the past 10 years, the situation had become intolerable, she said, and locals were “desperate” to see the award-winning markets move elsewhere.
It draws parallels with the former Maleny Folk Festival which was moved to a larger site in Woodford when its popularity overtook the Maleny Showgrounds.
But his view is contradicted by a market official who said the tourist attraction had put Eumundi “on the map” and encouraged artists and producers, many of whom lived locally and were part of the community.
Regional Councilor David Law also pointed out that the contribution of visitors on market days to the local economy was invaluable and that there was an average increase of 77% in spending at Eumundi on market days.
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Ms Russell said locals have been forced to avoid the main street of Memorial Drive due to a lack of available parking spaces and congestion with visitors and vehicles two days a week.
She said the markets had “grown like a growth that killed the ability to survive any permanent business.”
This in turn led to reductions in shop opening hours, depriving local residents of access to the usual goods and services conveniently offered in other cities.
After speaking to business owners and other residents, Ms Russell said she was not an isolated voice.
“We can’t choose to go to our city whenever we want,” she said.
“If you can’t go to lunch on a Saturday in your city (because it’s so crowded), you choose somewhere else to go.
“Thirty years ago…locals could visit, eat breakfast, walk around, park and go, and really use our city.
“(The markets) are too big. It’s like growth suffocating the city.
“At weekends and rush hour it takes locals 20 minutes if we are driving into Brisbane just to get out of Eumundi via the ring road.”
Original Eumundi Markets head of market operations, Lauren Becks, said it was unfortunate that even one Eumundi resident saw the markets in a negative light, but she believed that view was not shared. by most of the city.
The markets are actually five separate local entities working in conjunction with several community organizations.
“Visits entail financial expenses,” she said.
“Whether it’s refueling at the local gas station, having a coffee at one of Eumundi’s cafes, or doing recreational shopping in the markets, people who visit our city contribute greatly to its economy.
“To say that the Eumundi markets are in some way a detriment to the city or the community is felt personally because we are part of the community.
“For many of us, it’s our home, our workplace, where we send our children to school and where we invest our creative energy.
“The Original Eumundi Market is a non-profit, community-based organization (NPO) operating with the aim of supporting local artisans, artisans, farms and self-made small business owners.
“Many employees and vendors in Eumundi markets are actually local residents of Eumundi.
“We regularly work in tandem with many other NFPs and community groups within Eumundi, including the Eumundi Historical and District Association, Experience Eumundi, Eumundi Chamber of Commerce, Eumundi Rotary and the CWA of Eumundi.”
These collaborative relationships had contributed to the success of the markets and put Eumundi “on the map”.
“The Original Eumundi Markets has spent a great deal of time, effort and money promoting Eumundi Markets and its merchants, all of whom are small, local businesses,” Ms Becks said.
“These efforts have developed the attractiveness of the town of Eumundi as a true tourism and tourist competitor of the Sunshine Coast.
“We have had an indelible imprint at Eumundi for over 43 years.
“Eumundi’s markets and the talented merchants who sell there are a credit to our community – a community that prides itself on creativity, originality and has become an inspiring hub for the arts.
“Lose the markets and you lose so many of the city’s creators associated with them.”
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Ms Becks dismissed any claims that markets have killed businesses, saying many have stood the test of time.
But she acknowledged that the effects of COVID over the past two years have had a detrimental impact on many small businesses – including merchants.
“It’s been sad to see small businesses struggling and heartbreaking to see families make the difficult decision to close,” she said.
“COVID has been particularly hard on Eumundi as Eumundi’s markets have not been able to operate for a few months. During the market closure period during COVID, the city and remaining businesses have suffered as they depend on our overflow of publicity and visits.
Sunshine Coast Division 10 councilor David Law said the council encourages residents to raise any concerns with market operators and continue to liaise with them.
Expense card data (from Geografia), which tracked spending in localities across the region, showed an average increase of 77% in spending in Eumundi on market days compared to non-market days, he said.
“The majority of this spending is on dining and entertainment and in addition to supporting these businesses, it is an important contribution to the local economy,” he added.
The council holds two leases with Eumundi Combined Community Organization Limited.
The final consecutive “Markets and other reasonable uses subject to Board approval” lease expires in January 2031 and the consecutive “Parking and Community Use” lease expires in December 2028.
Cr Law said any business facing challenges was encouraged to contact the council to be put through to a suitable agent.
The Council’s Economic Development Branch has worked with the local business community in Eumundi and across the region to provide support and connect owners with information, resources and opportunities.