Key points

  • Preston Market is becoming a key state election issue in Melbourne’s north, with candidates declaring their support for its retention.
  • The Andrews government views the redevelopment of the market as key to providing much-needed housing on well-connected land.
  • Most of the stalls would be moved under a draft plan, but some locals are standing as independents to fight the proposal. 

The future of the privately owned Preston Market is becoming a centrepiece of the state election campaign in Melbourne’s northern suburbs, with candidates declaring their support for its retention.

The Andrews government views the redevelopment of the market as key to providing much-needed housing on well-connected land, but has made significant concessions, including reducing the number of planned apartments, after the planning authority was flooded with angry submissions.

Gaetano Greco will run as an independent for Preston at the November election, with a focus on saving the Preston Market.Credit:Wayne Taylor

Most of the stalls would be moved under the draft plan, except for the existing fruit and vegetable shed, which is being retained to protect local heritage.

Gaetano Greco, a well-known independent Darebin councillor who has been at the forefront of the local campaign to keep the market as it is, has announced that he will run for state parliament. Greco’s election campaign has one main focus – he wants the Victorian government to compulsorily acquire and refurbish the stalls, which he describes as Preston’s “beating heart”.

Joint owners Salta Properties and Medich Corporation want to revitalise the 50-year-old market through profit they would make by allowing room for more apartments than the government currently supports.

The well-organised “Save the Preston Market Action Group” say they are not against the addition of housing, but not for private benefit, and want the land compulsorily acquired.

Group member George Kanjere hopes to force the site onto the election agenda for the safe Labor seat of Preston and noted candidates were already keen to state their support.

But he wants concrete policies, rather than generic statements, and will send all candidates a questionnaire in the lead up to the November election.

Greens candidate Patchouli Paterson publicly supports retaining the market in a profile on the party website, and told The Age in was an important institution for Preston residents.

“I’ll be strongly advocating for its protection,” she said in a statement.

Greens candidate for Preston, Patchouli Paterson.Credit:The Greens

Greens leader Samantha Ratnam said the party wanted the market to remain where it was, with the addition of more open space and affordable housing.

Labor candidate Nathan Lambert, the party’s former assistant national secretary, has inherited a handsome 20 per cent margin from outgoing MP Robin Scott.

Lambert was not available to respond to questions by deadline.

Planning Minister Lizzie Blandthorn said: “We know how important Preston Market is to the community – so we’re making sure any development will ensure the market space is equal to or greater than it is now, and any changes won’t disturb its valued characteristics.”

The Liberal Party has endorsed Amanda Paliouras to contest the seat.

Greco believes the recent federal election proved voters will support independents, and argues local views on the market would be given more weight if the seat of Preston was marginal.

“I am not beholden to a political party machine or big corporate donors,” said Greco, a former Labor member who will take leave from Darebin Council once his nomination has been formally submitted.

He also contested the 2018 election, and received a modest 6.88 per cent of first preference votes. In the 2020 Darebin City Council election, he attracted almost 40 per cent of first preferences in the north-west ward.

Stakeholders are finalising submissions before the draft planning provisions go to a planning advisory committee next month.

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