Whangarei District Council Reneges on Verbal Agreement

29 Oct 2018

Whangarei District Council Reneges on Verbal Agreement around Night Markets, says Hospitality New Zealand’s Northland Branch

Hospitality New Zealand’s Northland Branch is disappointed with Whangarei District Council’s dismissive approach to concerns around the importance of an even playing field when it comes to the Canopy Night Markets. While the Northland Branch supports community events that benefit everyone, their concern is if you are going to operate as a business, you should be treated like one.

“The Branch doesn’t want to see an end to the Canopy Night Markets, but the Friday night markets negatively impact on local hospitality businesses in the area, who have similar food offerings. Not only do local hospitality businesses pay business rates all year round, they pay the highest liquor licencing fees in the country too. Our understanding is that the organiser licensing fee to use the Town Basin is just $10 per annum, in comparison to the thousands other local business have to pay per annum,” said Kim Odendaal, Hospitality New Zealand’s Regional Manager for Northland.

“Food Truck programs like the Canopy Market that run across the warm summer months take a considerable share of the market during the sector’s short ‘high season’. This puts a strain on local businesses who rely on an active summer period to sustain their businesses through the lean winter months, which allows continued employment of locals all year round, and contribution to the local economy all year round. We have seen a similar issue raised in Christchurch recently over the Night Noodle Markets, whose 12-night run will undoubtedly take business away from bars and restaurants in February.

“If this type of uneven playing field goes unchecked, local hospitality operators will continue to lose turnover, and losses will be passed on, meaning a possible loss of jobs for local people and a negative effect for the local economy. Operators will need to tighten rosters and as a result staff may lose employment hours, possibly even their jobs,” Kim said.

After last year’s Canopy markets in Whangarei, the Northland sector of Hospitality NZ and its members met with the Council to raise the matter and negotiate a workable compromise. A verbal agreement was then reached in July 2018 (with the then Venue & Events Manager – who we understand has since left this position) that the markets would not be held on a Friday or Saturday night due to the impact this had on local business. It was agreed they could run any other night during the week. At this time, Hospitality NZ were pleased to have reached a compromise that appeared to benefit all parties.

The hospitality sector was therefore blindsided when advertising appeared for the upcoming season for the Gourmet Night markets, to be held on a number of Fridays between October and April, and additionally Easter Monday

When this breach of agreement was brought to the Council’s attention, they responded saying the previous employee has since “left the organisation a few weeks after your meeting. Unfortunately, his commitment was not passed on to other Venues and Events staff who were negotiating with the night market. As a consequence, we have a signed licence agreement for 8 Canopy Bridge night markets to be held on Fridays between 19 October 2018 and 22 April 2019. This is one market per month other than January when there will be two. No commitment has been made beyond these dates.”

“This is a disappointing response from Council and they have reneged on their earlier agreement. The hospitality sector is willing to work with Council as it realises the importance of bringing community-based events in to the town, but when those community-based events are in direct competition to locals’ livelihoods, and those of their staff, we urge them to reconsider their position.” Kim said.

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