20 C
Byron Shire
August 1, 2021

High hopes for handover of old Byron Bay Hospital

Latest News

Unnecessary divisions

Louise Andrews, Lennox Head Dear Mandy, an excellent article in The Echo (Soapbox, 21 July). It saddens me too to witness...

Other News

Unnecessary divisions

Louise Andrews, Lennox Head Dear Mandy, an excellent article in The Echo (Soapbox, 21 July). It saddens me too to witness...

Byron’s bioenergy facility DA

David Dixon, Byron Bay I am concerned Council’s bioenergy project has received no external financial scrutiny and that my requests for...

Cartoon of the week – 28 July, 2021

We love to receive letters, but not every letter will be published; the publication of letters is at the discretion of the online and print letters editors.

To kill all Jews? No…

Subhi Awad, Mullumbimby With respect to Wakil and Macklin (Letters, 21 July) the assertion that the Palestinian resistance wants to kill...

Saddle Road land snapped up for $10m

A picturesque property in Brunswick Heads that was once slated to become an eco-village may become a light industrial precinct after the owners sold it to a developer for $10 million. 

Regional Lions Club funding gets a new 10-seater for the Rainbow Dragons

Ross Kendall The Rainbow Region Dragon Boat Club (RRDBC) will have a new, 10-seater boat for competition training thanks to...

A proposal to have the old Byron Bay Hospital placed in community hands has been put to the NSW Government. File photo

Paul Bibby

The campaign to have the old Byron District Hospital site placed in community hands has taken a significant step forward. A formal proposal backed by local political and business figures was put to the state government last Friday.

Under the plan, believed to have considerable state government support, NSW Health would lease the 2,000sqm site to the community for a nominal fee with Byron Shire Council acting as lessee or trustee.

The government would also provide $2.5m to fund the full refurbishment of the main hospital building and the remediation work required on the site.

This would pave the way for the dilapidated hospital to be transformed into a mixed-use community hub providing much-needed services for the local area.

Political play

NSW Upper House MP Ben Franklin (Nationals) who helped put the proposal together and presented it to his parliamentary colleagues on Friday said he was ‘optimistic’ that it would be adopted.

‘I have had a number of conversations about this with the premier, the deputy premier and the health minister,’ said Mr Franklin, the parliamentary secretary for northern NSW.

‘They are interested and engaged and supportive of the concept of maximising community space.

‘They haven’t given me any guarantees but I certainly haven’t been discouraged by anything they’ve said.’

On June 28 Byron Shire Council voted unanimously to support the proposal.

This included agreeing to act as the lessee/trustee, and agreeing to oversee a facilities team to manage and maintain the facility, and its relationship with the community.

Assisting those campaigning for the site to become a community hub is the looming state election.

The Nationals lost the seat of Ballina in the last election after a 27-year reign and will no doubt be keen to wrest it back from the Greens at the next poll in early 2019.

A positive announcement about the future of the hospital site in the leadup to the vote would almost certainly boost their chances.

Cooperation

Despite having this political charge, the proposal for the site is the outcome of cooperation between locals from across the political spectrum including Mr Franklin, local Greens MP Tamara Smith, Labor councillor Paul Spooner, Ballina Labor candidate Asren Pugh and Byron Shire mayor Simon Richardson (Greens).

At the weekend’s ALP conference a motion supporting the use of the old hospital site as a community facility was supported.

It also has the support of key local business figures who are among approximately 80 locals who have written formal letters in support of the plan.

The proposal involves the creation of a community hub in which affordable rental accommodation is provided to organisations representing the welfare, health, education and cultural sectors.

It includes a business plan under which rents would be structured in three tiers, with Tier 1 being for commercial organisations and Tier 3 being a zero-cost space for community projects.

Once the facility is fully occupied, income would be distributed back to community organisations on a merit basis.

Chris Hanley, the chairman of the community steering committee responsible for the plan, said that if the state government agreed to the proposal, he was confident it would work.

‘The business case is the demonstration that if the building is given to the community of Byron Shire with the money to fix it, the rents will be enough to sustain it,’ Mr Hanley said.

‘The building is pretty good inside but it needs some work and part of the money we’re asking for would go into a sinking fund.

‘It’s an old building and some of the money we’re asking for would be held for any future repairs that are needed. The $2.5m is a quote from an experienced local architect.’

Fifteen organisations have supplied letters of intention, indicating their readiness and desire to be part of the hub.

While they have asked not to be named publicly in order to protect their existing lease arrangements, The Echo has learnt that the list includes some of the region’s largest education and cultural institutions, as well as much smaller not-for-profit groups.

‘All of those who have expressed an interest are looking forward to getting spaces that don’t cost the earth,’ Mr Hanley said.

‘Rent is so high in Byron Bay, this is a great opportunity.’

He said the proposal and the campaign as a whole had demonstrated the ability of locals to work together for the common good.

‘This is the outcome of more than a year of work from a very dedicated and smart group of people.

‘We wouldn’t even be having this conversation without Ben Franklin. But every single political group has supported this – (local Greens MP) Tamara Smith has been very helpful, (local Labor councillor) Paul Spooner, and the Mayor.

‘We’ve also had letters of support that would blow you away, from the former matron of the hospital Shirley Nelson, to young people in their 20s who were born at the hospital.’

Timeframe

Mr Franklin said he had asked his parliamentary colleagues to make a decision on the plan within ‘a small number of months’.

‘There’s an election within nine months’ time; we definitely want it off the books by then. I want it locked and loaded,’ he said.

‘I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to do it before then.’


Support The Echo

Keeping the community together and the community voice loud and clear is what The Echo is about. More than ever we need your help to keep this voice alive and thriving in the community.

Like all businesses we are struggling to keep food on the table of all our local and hard working journalists, artists, sales, delivery and drudges who keep the news coming out to you both in the newspaper and online. If you can spare a few dollars a week – or maybe more – we would appreciate all the support you are able to give to keep the voice of independent, local journalism alive.

2 COMMENTS

  1. The community must be be given the use of the old hospital – without undue delays and political arguments.
    What about provisions for old and ageing people – social support, services hub, drop-in etc.?

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Bruns North Arm

Jillian Spring, BillinudgelRegarding your article ‘A positive change to bring back the Bruns’, (Echo, 14 July). Since 2013/14 submissions to Council, a more in-depth submission (29...

History repeats

Peter Olson, Goonengerry History shows that when the media and the politicians turn against the people, eventually there is a backlash. It seems hard to imagine The...

Byron beach erosion

Ann Tiernan, Suffolk Park I strongly disagree with Council’s position stated in last week’s Echo that ‘The sand (at Clarkes Beach) will come back, but it...

A day of ‘thank you’

Alison Drover, Broken Head How about a day of ‘thank you’ to our health workers and ‘sorry’ from our prime minister and ‘please’ from the community? Instead...