PLANS are in place to demolish the historic 1919 Murrurundi Wilson Memorial Hospital building in early 2021 to make way for the construction of a carpark.
The Murrurundi and surrounding communities have established a new community group which is working to preserve the 101-year-old heritage building for community use. This building is scheduled to be demolished when the new hospital is completed.
The building was designed by renowned architect George MacRae who designed the Queen Victoria Building, Sydney Town Hall and Taronga Zoo Entrance, together with several very prominent heritage listed buildings.
Heritage consultant and spokesperson for the Group, Mr Ray Hynes said there is broad community support for the retention of the historic 1919 Wilson Memorial Building for ongoing community use.
Hunter and New England Health currently operate out of this historic building.
During the last state election the local state member Mr Michael Johnsen MP, Member for Upper Hunter, campaigned strongly and successfully to build a new hospital, which won wide community support.
At the time the new hospital was announced as proceeding, it was not made clear to the community by Hunter New England Health, that the original 1919 heritage building would be demolished.
Since details of the demolition were released, Hunter New England Health has asserted that the building contained dangerous levels of asbestos and was a danger to the community.
A confidential Hazardous Materials report provided by Hunter New England Health on the heritage building has revealed that there is minimal asbestos within the heritage building and what is present will "pose negligible health risk to employees and the general public".
Hunter New England Health also stated that the heritage building was in a poor condition with roofs that were leaking.
"A new roof had been placed on the heritage building within the last two years and there are no problems with any water leaks," Mr Hynes said.
Hunter New England Health has also advised the building was of no heritage significance. This was also found to be misleading and incorrect.
Mr Chris Richards, a well-known heritage conservationist and heritage consultant has been working with the community and found through reports and information he has received that the following was again untrue.
The heritage impact statements undertaken by Hunter New England Health made little or no effort to identify the heritage significance of the building.
Hunter New England Health has admitted that an inadequate heritage impact statement was originally undertaken on the building.
Recent Heritage assessments by Mr Richards and Ms Elizabeth Evans, who was commissioned by the Upper Hunter Shire Council, identified the 1919 building as having high local and State Heritage significance. The building was nominated by Upper Hunter Shire Council for State Heritage listing.
The 1919 heritage building is in an excellent state of repair.
If this George MacRae heritage building were to be constructed today it would cost in the vicinity of $2 million to $4 million.
Murrurundi is a prominent art community and the local Arts Council is keen to utilise the building as their current home, the railway station, is becoming untenable with ever increasing rail movements related to the expansion of the northern coalfields.
While the community looks forward to the opening of the new hospital with much enthusiasm, the proposed demolition is a blatant waste of taxpayers' funds using rubbery and misleading reports to achieve this outcome.
"There is no reason why both the new hospital and this significant heritage item cannot co-exist", Mr Hynes said.
"But what is being built on the site of this important heritage building? We are told it will be a car park and temporary staff quarters.
"There is growing anger and concern that the community has been misled and stands to lose a most significant heritage building where many lives have started and sadly come to an end over the course of a century.
"We call on the NSW Government and Hunter New England Health to do the right thing by our community and allow both the old and the new hospital to stand."