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Byron Shire
April 21, 2021

Old Byron Hospital future set back

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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.

Paul Bibby

Byron Council’s decision to bypass a conventional tender process for the management of the old Byron Hospital site appears to have backfired, with the project becoming bogged in bureaucracy.

Councillors have now voted to return to the well-worn tender path in the hope that this will see the goal of turning the site into a community services hub advance more quickly.

The old Byron District Hospital site. File photo

Last week’s Council meeting heard that after the Shirley Street site was sold to Byron Council for $1 in 2018, it decided to grant a long-term lease to the community committee that had initiated the project without seeking any other expressions of interest.

This volunteer committee, acting under the not-for-profit company name Old Byron Hospital Ltd (OBH), had played a crucial role at every stage of the project and was to be responsible for managing the site.

However, when the directly negotiated lease with OBH was sent to the Office of Local Government as per Council’s legal obligations, the bureaucrats said it potentially met the definition of a ‘public-private partnership’, which would require greater assessment.

Council officer Claire McGarry said in a report to last week’s meeting, ‘Given OLG cannot provide an estimated timeframe for finalisation of their review, it is recommended an alternative approach of calling a tender be considered.’

‘The main benefit of a tender would be to put timeframes back within Council’s control with additional benefits including demonstrating to those who wish to now make a case for use and management of the facility…’

The council’s decision to privately negotiate a lease with OBH Ltd last September led some within the community to question whether the process should have been conducted with greater transparency.

Labor councillor Paul Spooner told last week’s meeting that this decision had been made in the interests of ‘getting the project up and going’.

‘If you think it’s frustrating getting a development application through Council, try sitting in our seat and dealing with the state government.’

With management of the site now going out to tender, OBH Ltd will now have to compete with any other interested parties to win the lease tender.

The chair of the committee, local real estate agent Chris Hanley, said he and the other eight members of the committee remained steadfast in their intention to ‘see the site become a wonderful local resource’.

‘The path they’ve taken was as per the legal advice they received,’ Mr Hanley said.

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  1. how much do non-local bureaucrats – whether they sit in canberra, sydney or nowra – know about our community’s needs? … & to exactly that extent ought they be involved in local community business.

  2. Counselling services, refuge services, showers, storage areas, food services etc would be excellent for the old site. I was a nurse there for almost 35 years . I live in hope for a good outcome for the future of the old place.

  3. The new Old Byron Hospital Ltd private company proposed that the hospital, bought for $1, generate $1,000,000.00 (one million dollars) a year in rentals, managed under their closed committee. Hard to see it being used dominantly for community services with sub rentals required to generate that revenue. Not to mention it could be opened right now for homeless accommodation.


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