Australia: Melbourne Market opening postponed
The new Melbourne Wholesale Fruit, Vegetable and Flower Market is expected to open almost a month later than previously planned, after grower groups complained about how facilities were not yet ready and claimed forklift traffic ways were "dangerously narrow".
The Herald Sun reported the new Epping site would be opened for business on August 31, pushed back from the initial August 3 launch date. The story reported about one in five tenants would have been unable to finish store fit-outs by Monday.
"After consultation with the 80 per cent of tenants ready to move we have been assured that a delay will not adversely impact them, and that they are happy to work to an August 31 opening date," Victorian Minister for Agriculture Jaala Pulford and Minister for Major Projects Jacinta Allan told the publication.
"We believe that this extension in time will allow those tenants who have yet to complete their fit-outs the opportunity to do so," they were quoted as saying.
"It is in the interests of all Melbourne Market participants that the move to the new site is a smooth transition and that there is as little disruption to trade as possible."
Late last week, Fruit Growers Victoria Ltd (FGVL) said the market was not ready or safe to open as scheduled on August 3, with "real and immediate health and safety risks" to market users.
The group said the narrowness of forklift traffic ways did not allow for other forklifts to pass, and highlighted truck and forklift parking was still not finalized. It also added that only 75-80% of stores were finished with fit-outs, and market staff were working exceptionally long hours and then trying to manage morning peak hour traffic.
Last week, national vegetable and potato grower body Ausveg called on Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews to intervene and postpone the planned August 3 relocation.
Ausveg emphasized the state's vegetable growers and other stakeholders had repeatedly raised legitimate concerns about the readiness of the new wholesale market site to house operations.
"Despite repeated requests from Victorian vegetable growers for the move to be postponed, the State Government has remained insistent that the relocation to Epping will go ahead as planned," Ausveg spokesperson Stefan Oberman said in a release.
"Such an approach demonstrates a worrying lack of common sense when you consider serious doubts remain about the readiness of the site to begin hosting stallholders.
"Growers have raised concerns about incomplete warehousing facilities, the slow rate at which access cards are being issued, and the increased volume of paperwork resulting from the move.
"By making things too hard there is a very real risk that an increasing number of growers will choose to bypass the market entirely, meaning the Epping site could end up being little more than an expensive white elephant."