Opportunism over compassion

The City of Melbourne has seized upon these unprecedented times to take advantage of vulnerable Queen Victoria Market (QVM) traders and customers.

By pushing through simultaneous applications to Heritage Victoria (due Wednesday, March 25) and to themselves (due Tuesday, March 24) for planning permits to repurpose QVM into a pedestrianised, commercialised event space with proposed new infrastructure, for the remaining traders that mirrors a supermarket and will increase the price of food. 

The very complex, 365-page Heritage Victoria application due on Wednesday and available only online, is monolingual (English only) hardly reflecting the multicultural mix that comprises our market and indeed our society, requiring time and skill to understand and to respond to. No attempt was made to consult with traders regarding draft plans before applying for the permits.

Requests to the Lord Mayor and council to postpone or defer the applications in these urgent times has fallen on deaf ears. Such mean-spiritedness is reprehensible.

Mary-Lou Howie

President, Friends of Queen Victoria Market

Don’t forget to shop local

I live in the city with my partner. For days, we had been trying to buy our normal groceries with no luck. By Monday, shopping had become an incredibly anxious event. 

The palpable stress of the city began seeping into our skin from the moment we stepped onto the street. It clung even heavier inside Aldi, and when we realised we couldn’t get what we needed there, we found the same thing inside Woolworths and Coles. The sense of fear was amplified by seeing other people standing frozen in front of empty shelves, being passed by people rushing around frantic with mostly empty baskets.
On Tuesday night, my partner went out to Coles Spencer St. He returned with a small bag of carrot sticks and a bar of Toblerone as consolation, instead of the meal ingredients that comprised our overly hopeful shopping list.
On Wednesday, with trepidation for what I wouldn’t be able to find and worried about how to avoid contagion, I ventured through the city with a backpack to seek an alternative.
On the corner of Elizabeth and Bourke streets, I stopped for a loaf of bread from Woodfrog Bakery’s street kiosk. From there I took the 96 tram to South Melbourne Market. Inside were people in lines 20 or 30 people long for some butchers, but they were laughing and chatting while they waited their turn. The rest of the deli aisle felt like another other, pre-COVID-19 day. There was a short wait for seafood, pantry goods, ready-made meals, pasta, quiche, pies, bread and sweets. I passed fully-stocked shops that were selling soap and toiletries. Tension left my shoulders completely when I turned a corner to see the abundance of vegetables stacked up in beautiful rows. There were no crowds. It was a relaxed environment to shop in. 

After seeing what was possible, on Saturday afternoon my partner and I went to Queen Victoria Market. We bought takeaway paella, then lined up behind all of four people to buy eggs from Eggporium. That was the longest wait that we experienced that day. The rest was even easier: cheese, ham, bread and pasta from Dairy Hall, shampoo and soap from Food For Your Skin in the organics aisle, no lack of fruit and vegetables in the sheds. 

It was easy to maintain physical distance from others to shop safely, and we got everything we needed. No stress, no touching, no bumping into people, no virus spreading. There was so just much food, I shook my head in wonder that we had been so focused on the supermarkets before then. 

Cristen Smith

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