$3 million to clean up, remove asbestos at old hospital site
THE paperwork is done and Byron Shire Council is set to officially purchase the old Mullumbimby Hospital site from NSW Health for $1 and start remediation works.
Chair of the Mullumbimby Hospital Site Project Reference Group (MHSPRG), and Byron Shire councillor Jeannette Martin, said the potential for the site was significant and it's hoped it will create a range of benefits and collective wellbeing for the whole community.
"Our community has had a strong sense of ownership of the site since the original hospital opened in 1969," Cr Martin said.
"Since mid-2017, the 21-member MHSPRG has met to provide advice and recommendations to council on the best outcome for the site, considering the wellbeing of the whole community, the environment and future generations.
"It's important that what happens on the site is community-initiated and implemented and the MHSPRG is exploring ideas that realise its social, environmental, and economic potential.
"We know it's a valuable site with some ideas for future uses including affordable housing, child care, commercial use, community facilities, education, environmental facilities, mixed-use development, recreation and residential care.
"But we know the site is not without its challenges, including a well-documented history of asbestos," Cr Martin said.
The council is now appointing one of Australia's leading remediation experts to clean up the site including the removal of the asbestos, which is expected to cost more than $3 million.
This contractor will comply with all NSW legislation for the safe removal of asbestos including strict Environment Protection Authority (EPA) requirements.
"Given the costs of remediation it is important that future generations are not burdened with the expense which is why we will be looking to generate a return from some of the site," Cr Martin said.
"The safety of our community is the most important consideration in this process and there will be extensive consultation with nearby residents, community organisations and stakeholders about the process, what will be happening, when and how.
"The contractor is experienced in remediation of contaminated sites and the health and wellbeing of the community will not be compromised during the clean-up of the Mullumbimby Hospital site," she said.
The remediation of the site is expected to take some six months and could start as early as October.
A comprehensive community engagement process will be rolled out shortly.
The Mullumbimby Hospital was closed in May 2016 when the new Byron Central Hospital opened and the NSW Government announced in mid-2017 it would sell the site to the Byron Shire Council for $1.