The Growers’ Market has become a fixture of food retail and social life in Whangarei since it started in 1998.

Orchardist Kath Meara, who sells citrus and cut flowers at the market, says Whangarei District Council’s support for the market has been vital.

“Without district council the market would never have got off the ground, let alone flourished,” she says.

She adds life for stallholders improved even more after the council demolished the former Shell fuel station, installed toilets and created more space. And Ms Meara says having Ms Mai drive the council to finish tar sealing the car park was also a plus for the market.

Ms Meara said for many Whangarei residents the market is a big day, not just to buy most of their fruit, veges, meat, fish, preserves and cheeses, but also to socialise and catch up with friends and neighbours.

“As growers, we try to make the market experience a special treat.”

And while Mayor Mai doesn’t make it to the markets every Saturday, she is not a stranger to stall holders.

“It’s funny because when she does come she often doesn’t seem to get very far around the stalls before she’s mobbed by people wanting to have a chat with her,” Ms Meara said.