NSW health minister Jillian Skinner’s office has declined to comment over whether she supports a valuable piece of real estate being returned to the community after it was secretly transferred to her department in 2010.
Echonetdaily previously reported that records indicate that 115 years ago, a resident gifted the Mullum Hospital land to be always used as a health facility, and ever since, other community members have donated to building extensions and medical equipment.
Instead, Ms Skinner’s office referred the question to the Northern NSW Local Health District, and its outgoing chief executive, Chris Crawford.
Mr Crawford told Echonetdaily, ‘Currently, no final decision has been made on the future of the Mullumbimby Hospital site. In due course there will be community consultation regarding the future of the site. The first priority once the site becomes vacant will be the remediation and rehabilitation of the land to remove all asbestos that is currently present. If a decision is made to sell the site, the first call on any funds raised will be to pay for the remediation of the site.’
The Mullumbimby Hospital Action Group (MHAG) say that in January this year, Ms Skinner advised now-retired MP Don Page in a letter, ‘The Department of Health intends to sell the site with the proceeds used to offset the cost of remediation.’
The group is calling for the land to be used for aged-care facilities and services, housing for people with a disability, for women escaping domestic violence, social housing for vulnerable and disadvantaged.
Mullumbimby Hospital will become redundant in 2016 when the new Byron Central Hospital commences operation.
MHAG is advocating that the land be transferred from the Department of Health to the Housing NSW in the Department of Family and Community Services, after the asbestos removal and demolition process has been completed
The group believes that ownership by the Department of Family and Community Services would facilitate the site being used for additional aged care facilities and services, housing for people with disabilities, women escaping domestic violence and social housing.
Action group members Dr Michael Pelmore, Bev Kliger and Ross Tucker told Echonetdaily that in the northern rivers region, especially Byron Shire, ‘there is a dire need for safe, secure, affordable and appropriate housing for people at all different life stages – adolescence, young adult, families with children, women and young people escaping family violence, retirees and elderly people’.
‘At the same time increasing housing costs in Byron Shire, both home purchase and private rental, combined with the lack of public and non-government emergency, short term and long term housing is contributing to family and community breakdown,’ they said.
‘Older people and young people can no longer afford to live close to their communities, their family, their social networks and their health and service facilities and supports.
‘The adequate supply of appropriate affordable and social housing including aged care housing and facilities, in the Byron Shire, is a key infrastructure issue.
‘The lack of supply is now affecting many socio-economic levels of our local community from working families and singles to the most disadvantaged in the Byron Shire.
‘Moreover on Thursday September 17 2015, MHAG conducted a public meeting at the Mullumbimby Memorial Hall at which the 123 people who attended unanimously agreed to the use of the Mullumbimby hospital site for aged care and social housing.
‘The meeting resolved that: The Mullumbimby community demands that the Mullumbimby Hospital land be transferred from the NSW Minister for Health to the NSW Minister for Family and Community Services and Social Housing.
The Mullumbimby Hospital land then be used to develop a range of aged care facilities and services and housing options through public and community sector partnerships.
‘This would be a win-win for everyone. Any other proposal for the use of the Mullumbimby Hospital site is not supported by the community,’ they said.