It has just been announced that the Mullumbimby hospital site has been offered to the Byron Shire council for $1 by the state government.
‘What a win win situation,’ said the excited Mayor of Byron shire council, Simon Richardson.
According to Richardson the conditions of purchase are fairly broad with the key being that the state government will be indemnified against any future cost in relation to the remediation of the sites asbestos contamination.
The site will be opened to the council to assess the condition of the buildings and the site.
‘The letter from government will arrive in the next few days,’ he continued.
The department of health has committed to pass on all information and reports regarding asbestos to council.
‘We know the building has asbestos but the inspections will give us a better understanding of the clean-up, if there are sections that can be saved, or demolished and start again.
‘Only at that point will we have a true cost of what the situation is.
‘Any remediation is at our (councils) cost.’
The news was relayed to council by Ben Franklin, Nationals Parliamentary Secretary for Northern NSW.
‘This is a terrific outcome for the community,’ said Franklin.
‘It was very clear to me at the rally held on 23 April that there is enormous support for retaining the site in the community’s hands in perpetuity. And I have heard a range of wonderful and innovative suggestions for its future use.’
The fight to keep the Mullumbimby hospital site in community hands was well under way before the Hospital was closed.
In 2015 the Mullumbimby Hospital Action Group (MHAG) with the support of council called to retain the site in public ownership to be used for a range of aged care facilities, services and housing options through community and public sector partnerships.
‘We are very excited that after so long, the community has finally secured the hospital site and are moving forward to work with council and community to determine future uses,’ said MHAG Chair, Michael Pelmore.
‘Profound thanks to the community and all contributors.’
It has been a long hard fight for the community to secure the site for community use culminating in a large rally on 23 April when news arrived that demolition of the site was imminent.
‘From the first time I met with the Mullumbimby Hospital Action Group in 2015 I’ve been incredibly impressed with the determination and vigilance of those active community members,’ said local Greens MP Tamara Smith.
‘This is their win and I can almost imagine those ancestors who gave this land to us in trust and all of the Hospital Auxiliary Volunteers since the early 1900s looking at us with approval.’
Acknowledging the hard work of the community that supported the development and maintenance of the site Deputy Mayor, Cr Basil Cameron said:
‘This is a fantastic result for the community. A huge thank you to the thousands of people who have worked for decades to create and care for the hospital site. A significant part of our heritage has been retained for the future of the Mullumbimby community due to the determination of all.’
The rally on 23 April brought the local community out in strength combining the determination and will of a wide range of community members, old and new.
‘A magnificent result illustrating the power of our amazing community,’ said Mike New from Community Alliance who was the MC at the rally.
‘Thanks to the 25 shire wide groups who came together over the last month to make this all possible, especially to MHAG who have carried the baton for years now, to the council and politicians and to the 350 people who took to the streets to have our voice heard.
‘We look forward to working together with all stakeholders in an open collaborative planning process that will create a beautiful result for the use of the land for the community.’
Working together as a community will be the key to making this site work said Mayor Richardson. Highlighting the process outlined at the recent hospital rally he said he expected that there would be a working party set up where community groups could work together to determine the best outcome for the site.
‘Politicians always like to claim that they deliver things but we know that it is the community standing up for what’s right that has gotten this great progress towards retaining the site as community land,’ continued MP Tamara Smith
‘The challenge ahead is to make sure that the State government is the one that pays for the decontamination of the site and not the ratepayers of Byron Shire.
‘Congratulations to the MHAG and the community for forcing the government to recognise that it is community land. I expect now that Byron Shire Council will undertake extensive and nuanced community consultation in order to truly assess the community’s will on the use of this land.’