Labor: 'Stop the trickery' over Mullum hospital site
UPDATE 10.45am: LABOR have demanded the State Government transfer - at no cost - the Mullumbimby and District War Memorial Hospital land to Byron Shire Council for community use - and "stop the trickery".
This morning the state government announced that they would give Byron Shire Council 28 days to make a so-called "reasonable" offer on the parcel of land.
NSW Shadow Health Minister Walt Secord, Richmond MP Justine Elliot and Byron Shire Councillor Paul Spooner since expressed their concern about the scheme revealed by North Coast Nationals MLC and NSW Parliamentary Secretary for Northern NSW, Ben Franklin describing the exercise as an "old National Party trick".
Mr Secord said: "If the Nationals were genuine, they would simply transfer the land to Byron Shire Council or sell the parcel of land for a symbolic amount like $1."
Mrs Elliot said: "The State Government is ignoring that the land was hospital land and is already owned by the community. Unfortunately, the Liberals and Nationals want to put a price tag on everything in the State. They simply want to sell off everything."
"The community already owns this land and they shouldn't have to pay twice."
Mr Spooner said he wanted the Mullumbimby hospital land to remain under community control. "This is about ensuring that this community land is retained and used for the community. This is about meeting the community's needs."
Mr Secord said he was worried about the "fine detail" in the Nationals' proposal.
Under the plan, Mr Franklin told a community rally that NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said he was willing to consider a "reasonable" offer from Byron Shire Council.
Mr Secord added: "Make no mistake, under the National Party scheme, a white shoe brigade property developer will be able to out-bid Byron Shire Council."
MONDAY 6.55am: BYRON Shire Council will be offered the opportunity to acquire the Mullumbimby and District War Memorial Hospital site, it has been announced.
Minister for Health Brad Hazzard said the NSW Government was willing to consider a reasonable offer from Council but it needs to be made quickly otherwise remediation works will commence.
"The Parliamentary Secretary for Northern NSW, Ben Franklin has let me know in no uncertain terms that the local community would like to have a look at some options around the old hospital site," Mr Hazzard said.
"Having heard that message the Government is willing to put demolition works on hold if the Council can get something to us in the next 28 days which guarantees public safety and benefit.
"Given the latest report's indication of the amount of asbestos located throughout the buildings our experts tell us the best and safest outcome for locals is to demolish the structures on the site.
"But if the local council, with local knowledge, has a local perspective and an interest in purchase (which I have read it has publically stated), the NSW Government is willing to have discussions with Byron Shire Council to acquire the site."
Mr Hazzard said he wants full transparency about all issues to do with the site and to that end the community can review the Hazmat report here.
It is necessary to sell the site because the deal was always that the taxpayers' commitment of $88 million for the new Byron Central Hospital would be to some degree offset by the sale price of the Mullumbimby and the Byron Bay hospital sites, Mr Hazzard said.
Parliamentary Secretary for Northern NSW, Ben Franklin MLC, said he had been lobbying the Minister for Health for a number of weeks on this issue to "try to get a positive outcome because it is so important to the community".
"I'm thrilled that I have convinced him to stop the demolition for the next 28 days to allow Byron Council to purchase the site so it can be kept for community use," he said.
"Thank you to everyone in the community who has stood up and fought for the future of the site. Their voice has been heard loud and clear."