Richmond stallholders set up separatist 'Freedom Market' to flout COVID regulations

The divide between the vaccinated and unvaccinated appears to be growing in the Nelson-Tasman region.

The Motueka Sunday Market has lost more than half its stalls because it asked stallholders to be vaccinated and wear masks.

Now the stallholders that left have started their own 'freedom market' in Richmond with more 'relaxed' regulations.

The market might be open but there are huge gaps with empty carparks where local businesses once sold their wares.

It used to be all stalls until manager Judy Roper asked stallholders to have a vaccine pass and wear a mask. About 60 of the 100 stallholders up and left.

"It backfired. It totally backfired," she says. "Pretty devastated."

While vaccine passes aren't required under government rules for markets, Motueka's remaining stallholders are backing Roper's decision.

"I have no problem with it at all, it's for the safety of the community and myself," says Motueka Market stallholder Murray Gott.

The public is on board too.

"It's a great idea - I think it's a shame some have chosen not to be," one person told Newshub.

The Nelson-Tasman region is in the orange traffic light and as farmers markets are classified as retail both the stallholders and the customers must wear face masks - another reason many stallholders left.

"They sort of threw it in my face that they were going to do another market where you don't need to worry about masks and safety," Roper says.

They leased the Nelson A&P Showgrounds in Richmond, creating a 'Freedom Market' where most people were not wearing masks on Sunday despite it being mandatory.

"There's no need for masks in this area. We have a big enough area here that it's perfectly safe," says Freedom Market stallholder Jess Sharp.

It's an area where Newshub was not welcome.

"Tell the lies that cause people to die. TV3 folks - these are the scum you need to be targeting," one person said.

The manager of the Freedom Market, Penny Cameron, declined Newshub's request for an interview and said media is not allowed on this site. 

WorkSafe says it visited the Richmond Freedom Market last month after receiving complaints from the public, and that it's reminded them to use QR codes, face masks and not to have tables and chairs outside food trucks.

Something it clearly is doing - even though food has to be takeaway only.

Motueka Councillor David Ogilvie is worried about the new Freedom Market.

"Richmond's got no rules whatsoever," he says.

"They are causing quite a bit of concern to Nelson Market and Motueka Market, it doesn't seem right to me at all."

Or to Roper. She isn't regretting her decision that resulted in many stallholders leaving.

"It was a relief because they were such trouble makers," she says.

And trouble is not what you're looking for at a sunny Sunday market.

A spokesperson from the COVID-19 Group - a business unit of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (DPMC) - confirmed that under the COVID-19 Protection Framework, farmers markets are treated as retail businesses.

"Under orange, these may open without a My Vaccine Pass requirement but with capacity limits in place based on 1-metre distancing (not including workers), and face coverings are required for staff and customers."

Food and beverage businesses within a market that only offer takeaway, such as coffee carts and food trucks, are included in the rules for retail.

"Close proximity businesses and services such as hairdressers cannot operate without My Vaccine Pass requirements in place."