Caroline Bass, Mullumbimby Hospital Action Group (MHAG)
Many of us over the past few months have been concerned to know how plans are progressing for the development of our precious community asset. We have watched the site being cleared of asbestos, and are anxious to know what happens next?
Gill Lomath and I were invited to attend a meeting with Council staff and councillors for an update on the project. We found the meeting useful and reassuring and felt we should now share what we have learned with the community.
There is good news and bad news. The bad news is that asbestos contamination is far worse than expected. Asbestos has entered the ground where the hospital has been demolished. It has been capped and is now safe. A further report is due shortly, however, it seems that future building will not be possible on that part of the site.
On the up-side, the site is large, thirteen acres, and we should be able to adjust our original design for a connected and vibrant hub, providing the community with much needed supported-living housing for older people, affordable housing, and allied services and support facilities.
The good news is that Council staff have been progressing the project. A consultant has been employed under a Commonwealth grant. Community representatives on the Project Reference Group (PRG) have spent a year working on a concept design for the site comprising housing for older people, affordable housing, as well as recreational and other facilities for the whole community. The PRG will be reconvened soon to help Council progress development.
The meeting also discussed Coolamon Villa. As community representatives we were passionate in reconfirming to Council staff the importance of acknowledging the enormous contribution both in time and money the community has provided to Coolamon Villa over the past forty years. We were adamant that this should be reflected in any negotiations over the future of the nursing home.
Community contributions included fundraising via music hall dinners, Chincogan Fiesta, Brunswick Housie, donations of extra facilities and resources, volunteer driving, and bequests. This amounted to tens of thousands of hours of voluntary labour, and more than a million dollars.
We are looking forward to seeing the community’s hopes for this long cherished community asset come to fruition.