THE NSW Health Minister has confirmed he will consider keeping the old Byron hospital site in community hands and enable Byron Shire Council to lease the site for a peppercorn rent.
Greens Member for Ballina Tamara Smith MP gained the commitment today during Question Time in the NSW parliament.
"Given that there is no need for the site to be sold off to developers in order to pay for the re-mediation of the old Mullumbimby Hospital site, there is no need for this valuable community asset to be sold off to the highest bidder,” Ms Smith said.
"This is a site that has historically supported the community through both front-line medical and allied health services and community meeting spaces. It is perfectly appropriate that it remain so and I am confident from the Minister's response to me that he agrees that this would be the best outcome for the Byron shire community,” said Ms Smith.
The impetus to keep the site in community hands comes following a meeting held in Byron Bay earlier this month where it was mooted that site would be purchased by the community.
Convened by local real estate agent Chris Hanley, the meeting saw more than 50 local business owners and community members come together and pledge support for the retention of the site and begin formulating a plan to put to the State government.
With an estimated value of between $8-10 million Mr Hanley said he believed the community would need the support of private individuals and philanthropists to retain the property.
"The community as a whole deserve the opportunity to pitch ideas to Byron Shire Council and I know that Mayor Simon Richardson would be looking at models for the site that truly do serve the interests of the community,” Ms Smith said.
"The Health Minister gave an undertaking that he and Property NSW would look at opportunities for the site and that it would not be sold prior to looking at what the community is proposing.
"I call on the NSW government to keep the Old Byron Hospital site in public ownership and to let Byron Shire Council lease it at a peppercorn rate, rather than having to raise money to buy back what already belongs to the Byron community.”
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