Residents have been outraged to learn of plans by NSW government bureaucrats to demolish the Mullumbimby and District War Memorial Hospital and have organised a community rally for Sunday April 23 from 11am at the hospital site.
So far, local Ballina MP Tamara Smith, Dawn Walker MLC and mayor Simon Richardson have confirmed they will attend the rally, which is being organised by Mullumbimby Hospital Action Group (MHAG).
North Coast Nationals MLC Ben Franklin has told The Echo he is ‘definitely going to try to make it.’
A report within the upcoming Mullum Chamber of Commerce agenda claims there has been no community consolation on a proposal to demolish the decommissioned hospital later this month.
No asbestos report
Additionally, an asbestos report – which presumably would give impetus for the planned demolition – has not been released to the public.
Residents claim that all asbestos in the original building has been managed with spray-on cement, which was deemed safe and enabled the hospital to continue to be used for many years.
A statement from the Ocean Shores Community Association (OSCA) reads, ‘The demolition of the Mullumbimby hospital buildings in April was confirmed by Hugh Halpin of Government Property NSW.’
‘Speaking with OSCA member Jan Mangleson, he stated that NSW Health had a responsibility to remediate the site of asbestos contamination. It is claimed this was discovered in all the buildings including the 1993 non-asbestos Suzanne Jamieson birthing unit, according to the Final Contamination Report and Remediation Action Plan. This report has not been released to the public.
‘No notice has been given of pending asbestos removal works to adjoining neighbours, including Coolamon Villa, or to the general public.’
Following a public meeting on September 17, 2015, MHAG called for the Mullumbimby hospital land be transferred from the NSW minister for health to the NSW minister for family and community services and social housing for aged care and social housing uses.
MHAG spokesperson Cr Basil Cameron says his group is calling on the Byron Shire community to come and help save the hospital site from a government sell-off.
‘MHAG calls on the NSW government to immediately provide full information on the justification for demolition of the hospital buildings. MHAG also calls the NSW government to meet its obligations to consult meaningfully with the community prior to any action being undertaken to remediate, develop or sell the site.’
MHAG member Mike New told The Echo that he spoke to a NSW health department worker who was standing outside the hospital.
‘He said it is due to be demolished in April, although as there is no announcement it could be delayed.’ He says he rang chief executive of Northern NSW Local Health District (NNSW LHD) Wayne Jones and they took a message. ‘[Staffer] Benjamin Jeong rang me and clarified my questions.’
The Echo sought clarification from Property NSW over the comments from OSCA, and a spokesperson replied that given the late notice they will try to reply Wednesday.
OSCA says that, ‘If remediation is possible, the hospital buildings could be a valuable resource for community uses other than housing.’
‘In December 2015, the chair of the NSW Local Health District Board Dr Brian Pezzutti stated the community would be consulted about the future use of the Mullumbimby hospital site. The health board in April 2017 has now declared its intention to sell the land. Community consultation has not happened.
‘Ocean Shores as well as the entire Brunswick Valley community had been waiting for this community consultation. The hospital site is seen by the public as an ideal place for much-needed quality affordable accommodation.
‘There is an urgent need for seniors assisted care and independent living accommodation in the Valley, especially affordable good quality rental accommodation.
‘OSCA is aware of vulnerable elderly people paying $250 and more rent a week for substandard space.
‘Our seniors are forced to go to Tweed Heads, the Gold Coast or Ballina. In their old age, they have to leave their own community.
‘In 2009 the then trustees of the Mullumbimby Hospital Site Trust commissioned a report for a seniors living residential village on residual land of the ‘Hospital Hill’ site, next to the Coolamon Villa seniors care facility.
‘The Trust asked the Department of Lands permission to continue its investigation. In 2010, the Trust was sacked and the site passed into NSW Health ownership.
‘The land had been a Community Site Trust since 1900. It wasn’t until 1968 that a hospital was finally built on Hospital Hill.
‘The Valley residents had spent long years raising funds and lobbying governments to achieve their goal.
‘Many local organisations are now uniting in an alliance to have this land returned for community use.’
NNSW LHD declined to answer the question by The Echo: ‘Is NCAHS aware of the demoition plans, and if correct, are they supportive of the land being returned to the community?’ Additionally NNSW LHD declined to answer whether they would support reinstating the Trust.
Greens Cr Jeanette Martin will table an urgency motion at the upcoming April 20 meeting, which calls for a halt to any planned works, further consultation and a return of the asset to community control.