Old Bega Hospital Reserve Trust - Chair's Report to 2017 AGM

The bulk of early 2017 was spent in organising the preliminaries of the Building Stronger Communities/PRMF toilet project. So, at last, OBH has a disability friendly toilet plus upgraded toilets in the Main Building and the Nurses Quarters. Thanks to PRMF for cooperating with the Trust in terms of the percentage of money used between the MB and the NQ. Also, with the announcement of $100,000 (Heritage Near Me) from the Office of Environment and Heritage to proceed to documentation towards a DA or Construction Certificate, the Trust was very encouraged that, maybe at last, the OBH MB was in sight of rescue and repair.

At the same time, the Trust (Richard in the main) was struggling with the mysteries of advertising via NSW eTender and Tenderlink for Expressions of Interest from architects to help the Trust with the design of a effective functional Community and Cultural Centre in the MB while conserving its heritage look and feel and managing the issue of a natural looking disability front entrance and other suggestions made via our wish list. Again, thanks to Richard for compiling the Wish List.

At least we had some new paths to show senior visitors from Crown Lands by late April. They were rather surprised at how much had been accomplished. With weather issues, the project was finished just in time for the acquittal dates.

Thanks to Eric and Ron Winter for keeping the grounds in order through the Men's Shed. Ron then went further and offered to supervise Community Service Order workers to increase the level of site management as he had done elsewhere. Bega Corrective Services staff were very pleased to be able to offer this option to the local courts as an alternative to prison. Our first participant was very pleased to be able to keep his job and work through his obligations "outside". He has worked very well indeed and is an example to the other 3 who have recently joined hint. We appear, at present, to be the only community organisation offering this option in Bega. We can see and appreciate the fruits of their labour. Ron has been an excellent supervisor and thanks to Richard for offering to be the back up supervisor should Ron not be available.

When the Eols finally appeared there was more work to do trying to ensure we were making a decision based on a level playing field - thanks Richard for all your efforts. Sibling Architecture of Melbourne was chosen - particularly for their creative body of work, the level of interest and how much project work they put into their EoI including acknowledging the significance of commitment to working within our budget. Our first joint meeting led to a unanimous decision to sign a contract. The 3 additional meetings we have had have called upon us to look closely at their ideas and compare them with our own. We have mostly been on the same wave length and our own discussions have been robust. Thanks to Richard for compiling our responses and raising extra relevant practical issues as have Jay and John and David. In general, I don't think we have been a very troublesome client.

In August we learned that the application (for $2.4m) to a new NSW tourism focussed grant source had not been successful. In September we learned - to my great surprise - that an application to the PRMF for $30,000 to reroof the remains of the NQ roof (the edges were replaced in 2008) had been successful. So followed another spate of activity to get quotes. We were also conscious that the extension of the 2015 Regional Assistance Fund ($500,000 MB roof grant) was running out and it was time to seek another extension. We sought a further meeting with Andrew Constance (we think our only chance of persuading Minister Barilaro to ease the (total cost one stage) impediment to releasing the dedicated roof money - which was to be by late August - but didn't occur. And still hasn't occurred in December!) We did write to Minister Barilaro with copies to Andrew Constance, Mike Kelly, Crown Lands Minister, Toole and BVSC Mayor, Kristy McBain and Secretariat, Crown Lands, Nowra to keep all parties informed of our plans and activities. In July, Crown Lands had commissioned a report from Public Works Advisory as to whether the OBH was able to be rebuilt and whether Trust plans were viable. The outcome was that PWA considered that OBH is rebuildable but cost was the problem in a generally tight fiscal atmosphere. There is some cognitive dissonance about this attitude as in July Andrew Constance was suggesting publicly that the government had some $1.66 to be distributed for important community works.

By the time of the Spring Raise the Roof Fair on 29 October we had updated toilets and paths to reveal to visitors, a draft plan of the site - courtesy of Sibling Architecture but no official response to our application for a further extension of the Regional Assistance Fund roof grant and relaxation of the total project vs staged development grant condition. The Friends and Fundraising Committee worked hard to produce an appealing event. More visitors than last year so we are able to claim that the community is very supportive of our goal. We understand that Crown Lands is likely to include restoration of the main building in a range of options that it may put to its Minister. Thanks to BVSC, Bega Cheese, RD Miller for grants to support the Fair and Coles and many other Bega and Tathra businesses and individuals for donations for the Chocolate Wheel prizes. Many thanks to the Weavers, Potters, Leadlighters and Beekeepers for their planning and help on the day, Bega Men's Shed, Jamie and the band for music and the stall holders (who all want to return in 2018). Thanks, too, to various family members who came and rendered help: and to Ron Winter and the CSO workers who had the grounds in excellent order and cleared away a lot of debris from the Main Building Western end so visitors could appreciate the fine lines of the structure. Thanks to Jay for providing fill to smooth the dips in Corkhill Place for visitors and the damp area between the Bega Men's Shed and the northern paddock and his helper role on the day. After such a long, dry spell and rain several days before the Fair there was some anxiety (mine) about how it would go. Jay, in his calm and practical way, quietly managed it.

The replacement of the Nurses' Quarters roof began soon after and we now have a gleaming roof that dazzles in the morning sun. We gained some interesting publicity from the exercise as the roof builders discovered both a number of rat corpses in the old water tank plus a large specimen which featured in the Bega District News and local ABC Radio. The conclusion is that the large specimen was a possum not a huge rat. Interesting how many people participated in the discussion.

We gained long term user groups in the Bega Valley Amateur Bee Keepers Inc and Security 24/7 which joined a week too late to prevent the theft of security fence panels and footings.

It is hard to predict what funding success might come our way in 2018. With state and federal elections in 2019 who can tell? The hard work and planning we have put into the preliminaries provides a good foundation for any suitable funding prospects. Claire has been working on the book of stories of OBH which we may see published in 2018. Thanks to Jay, John, Richard, Claire, David and Warren for all the creative thought, meeting attendance and participation, research and practical action, imagination, support and care you have contributed. Thanks, particularly, to John for keeping track of our increasingly complicated finances and Richard for keeping detailed notes and the momentum of the architectural process going. We end the year on a note of satisfaction with the architects' concept design nearing completion, and the feeling that, with robust discussion, we are producing a plan we can be proud to promote.

Pat Jones

12 December 2017