A new arrival on the Newtown, Wellington, scene in 2009 is a market in the St Anne’s parish hall. The impetus to ‘thicken community’ in Newtown is alive in the buzz of talk, music, eating and shopping on a sunny, breezy Saturday afternoon.

Behind the monthly community market is a story of a group of people being catalysed into action through a social analysis workshop run by the Wellington Catholic Diocese. A number of people who took part in the workshop were members of St Anne’s parish in Newtown.

The analysis workshop was run by Fr Kevin Barr of ECREA, Fiji. The social analysis he developed came from his experience in working with migrant groups in Fiji. This group became mobilized to access their rights to meet their own needs for fair pay and working conditions.

One of the discussion which emanated from Fr Kevin’s workshop looked at this proposition ; ‘Di people on the financial margins in the Newtown community to have access to good quality food at a fair price’. The people involved in that discussion agreed to call a public meeting to discuss this proposition with others already working in the community.

The public meeting of every interest group the project group could think of in Newtown. These groups included the City Mission, Sustainability Trust, Green Thumbs, Open Space, Newtown Park Flats and Regional Public Health. Over 35 people attended the initial meeting.

Further meetings followed and action in Newtown took shape following a suggestion from St Anne’s parishioner Susannah Ounei that the way to consult the diverse community was through a market – others agreed as in many of their home countries the market is a gathering place for a community, this is where communication takes place – layers that are often not obvious in the more commercially orientated market places in New Zealand. A pilot market in November 2008 followed and a group of 8 to 12 people from across the community have maintained a commitment to organize the current market.

The Market

The Newtown market is alive with stalls, live music, conversations, messages from stall holders, home made food, all sorts of produce and fresh veggies, resources for gardening such as seedlings and cocoa husk mulch, creative arts such as knitting and glass bead jewellery and links to local activities.


One stall-holder is the 350degrees group which is part of the Sustainability Trust, with a message of limiting carbon emissions and climate temperature rise to 350parts per million.


Making the Market Work & Participating Groups

Early challenges included finding the means to buy fresh produce and finding access to fruit and veggies as there was resistance to new avenues opening beyond the existing Wellington Markets. A grant from Caritas made it possible to purchase the produce to supply the market. In the beginning the market often ran at a small loss and this was carried by members of the organizing committee. Gradually the market has become sustainable and is now running at a profit of $40- $50 per week.

Wellington City Council supported the stall-holders with equipment in the early days. The sound system is provided by St Anne’s parish. Regional Public Health is a big supporter and have a member on the ‘Market’ committee – they see the market as being about health and healthy communities. Their support can be through printing newsletters and posters and background work needed to keep the market going.

Several people on the organizing committee spoke of the challenge of keeping the impetus going as many people are unable to sustain the ongoing commitment. This market has been sustained by a commitment to grow a project locally with a core of members able to keep on ‘turning up to turn on the lights.’

Partners in the Market Becoming Established

There are now a group of committed stall holders and organizers. Freshly cooked Thai food is one highlight and regular supplies of fresh veggies another.

The market is held once a month and a newsletter goes out announcing the regular and new items for sale and exchange.

The Newtown Organic Co-op regularly supplies goods, and the market welcomes produce from neighbouring community gardens. Young twins Lacan and Datu, whose family is part of the committee, grow vege seedlings to sell. Many groups join in intermittently and stall holders see this as a chance to share and sell clothes, crafts and cooking and to bring messages of sustainability to Newtown.


Duncan Holland

Contact for newsletter: newtownpeoplesmarket@gmail.com