Byron Shire Council is set to urge the state government to consider using the Mullumbimby Hospital land for aged-care facilities, services and housing once the hospital is decommissioned next year.
The move follows a community campaign for the hospital land to be transferred from the health department to the family and community services portfolio to enable it to be used for social housing.
Locals fear the land could be sold off to private operators when the new Byron Central Hospital opens in the middle of next year and the buildings at the Mullum site have been demolished.
A public meeting last month organised by the Mullumbimby Hospital Action Group was told that aged-care facilities, housing and services could be established on the site through a public-private sector partnership.
Cr Duncan Dey this morning (Thursday) will move a motion for council to write immediately to the NSW premier, treasurer, and ministers for health and family and community services to support the action group’s resolutions from its meeting on 17 September for the land transfer and proposed aged-care uses.
Cr Dey said the community use and development of the land ‘should include a full range of aged care facilities and services, housing for people with a disability, social housing that provides secure, sustainable, safe and affordable housing for vulnerable and disadvantaged people including housing for women headed households escaping domestic violence’.
‘Changes in the landscape of hospital services in the shire will include relocation of key services to a new facility, currently being built at Ewingsdale,’ he said in his background notes.
‘The state chose its new self-approved greenfield site to provide a larger centralised facility but this also liberates existing properties for other uses, or for sale.
‘Fearing the latter, the Mullumbimby Hospital Action Group has researched the history of the site at Mullumbimby and has tracked NSW Health’s thinking on the future of that land.
‘The action group’s publications include a five-page statement of 19 August 2015, which leads with:
The Mullumbimby Hospital Action Group (MHAG) is a united group of concerned and dedicated people who aim:
To work with the NSW Government and Byron Shire Council to develop the Mullumbimby Hospital site for community purposes as the land has been used for health purposes for 115 years.
The land was set aside for this purpose under the Mullumbimby Hospital Reserve Trust.
The community use and development of the land should include:
· a full range of aged care facilities and services
· housing for people with a disability,
· social housing that provides secure, sustainable, safe and affordable housing for vulnerable and disadvantaged people including housing for women headed households escaping domestic violence.’
Cr Dey said ‘These aspirations may not yet be encompassed within council’s forward planning strategies but they have merit and would likely sit well within them’.
He said the action group believed ‘this would be a win-win for everyone’.
In January, health minister Jillian Skinner said the hospital site would be sold and the proceeds used to contribute to the cost of remediation.
But Cr Dey said ‘this is despite the Northern NSW Local Health District chief executive stating “prior to any final decisions being made about the future use of the hospital campus consultation will take place with Byron Shire Council and the community to seek their input of what use should be made”’.
‘Fears of the community losing use of the land appear well founded. I support the wish to keep the land in public hands for public purposes,’ Cr Dey said.
‘The purposes listed above by the Hospital Action Group are well known by this community.
‘The alternative of selling the site would likely produce a short-term windfall to the NSW government and more urban subdivision in a desirable north-facing location in Mullumbimby.
‘The hospital buildings may contain asbestos and remediation is likely required.
‘In the long term however, the value of the asset far outstrips the challenge of dispensing with such dangers, they must be dealt with anyway. Remediation should not be used as an excuse to discard the asset,’ he said.