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Byron Shire
March 7, 2021

It’s ours! Byron District Hospital site given to local community

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Byron Shire Mayor Simon Richardson hands over $1 for the purchase of the old Byron District Hospital. Photo Paul Bibby.

Paul Bibby

The old Byron District Hospital site has been given to the local community by the State Government, paving the way for the dilapidated facility to be transformed into a much-needed services hub.

After 18 months of hard work by a group of locals committed to keeping the facility in community hands, NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard announced today that the 2,000sqm Shirley Street site would be ‘sold’ to Byron Council for a nominal fee of $1.

Mr Hazzard said the government would also provide $200,000 in funding to help the community undertake the major work needed to return the site to a useable state.

With the site previously slated for sale to the highest bidder – most likely a housing developer – today’s announcement is a significant win for the community.

It is also a political win for Nationals MLC Ben Franklin who had a central role in lobbying his Macquarie Street colleagues not to put the site on the open market.

Mr Franklin is standing for the State seat of Ballina at the next state election, where he will attempt to unseat the popular Greens incumbent Tamara Smith.

Tamara Smith MP, Member for Ballina welcomed the announcement. She told Echonetdaily, ‘I am so proud to have been part of the community driven process to take a proposal like this to the state government. With generations of residents support and donations towards equipment and improving the facilities of the hospital, it is so appropriate that the land now be returned to the people.’

‘This was a truly bi-partisan community project and I was so pleased that my office could participate in and contribute towards the final submission to the minister.”

‘Congratulations in particular to Chris Hanley, who has been the absolute champion of this project.

‘I am delighted at another community win for Byron Bay. Keeping a valuable, central site such as this in public ownership is the best result for the community,’ said Ms Smith.

NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard announces the handover of the Byron District Hospital site to the local community. Photo Paul Bibby.

While the exact terms of the ‘sale’ are not yet clear, it is understood Byron Council will act as trustee for the site while a committee of locals develops a detailed plan for its future use.

A preliminary proposal for the site has already been developed by a group of locals led by local real estate agent Chris Hanley and including Ms Smith, Mr Franklin and Byron Mayor Simon Richardson.

‘This is a great win for our local community,’ Mr Franklin said.

‘I heard what locals wanted and have been lobbying the NSW Government to ensure this property remains in community hands, with council and locals now in pole position to decide on its future.’

This 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.

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 list includes some of the region’s largest education and cultural institutions, as well as much smaller not-for-profit groups.


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6 COMMENTS

  1. Most excellent. Proving – when Councils and States do represent the Community it serves, it’s smooth sailing. Kudos to all who put the yards in. A win for all.

  2. Great news and much potential. There is so much to be considered however in the management of this project to ensure the best and fairest outcomes for the community.

    Were these ‘letters of intention’ publicly and competitively sought?
    How did businesses/organisations know to submit them?
    How will leases generally be advertised?
    What selection criteria exists at each tier and who are the selection panel?
    What are the panel’s credentials?
    Will there be a transparent and open process that has appeal avenues?

    Sorry to be so cynical but I have not been impressed by some examples of the competence and transparency of our Council.

  3. Hi Liz

    There was lots of publicity being run out through local media – I was overseas and it blipped my radar after a colleague heard a call-out for Letters of Intention on BayFM.

    https://www.byronnews.com.au/news/ideas-and-effort-needed-for-old-byron-hospital-sub/3379647/

    This initative as I understand it has been spearheaded by Chris Hanley – a member of our community who not just has a fantastic track-recorded but who has buckets of integrity and good intentions…

    • Thanks for your reply, J’aimee. I too have been away for quite a while which is why I asked a series of questions rather than jump to conclusions. It’s good to know that the call-out went on Bay FM. As I suggested though, the fair and equitable administration of a public asset would seem a bit more involved and I hope this ‘call-out’ isn’t the entire modus operandi.

      The feedback invited by Council, the committee and news articles, like the one you referenced in your link, was indeed well publicised but was to do with initial ideas for use of the facility not sourcing prospective tenants.

      I am not questioning the integrity of any members of the group who developed the proposal and thank them all for their work. However I hope that Council staff, with the appropriate knowledge of LG legislation and guidelines in this area, will have oversight and pay heed to requirements.

      We may have paid only $1 but the $200,000 from the state won’t go far towards any renovation and remediation works needed to make the facility viable for this proposal nor to its ongoing maintenance. Rest assured this is not only an asset we all own but one we will keep paying for.

      We have a right to ask questions and mine are still largely unanswered.

  4. Let’s just hope that the Byron Council removes its head from where the sun dosen’t shine & uses some common sense & foresight in regard to the use of this site, it would be a pleasant change.

  5. Wow, what delightful news. Thanks to all those that must have lobbied HARD to make this decision happen. Well done for pushing such a bloody good outcome! I salute you all!

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