A property stoush 133-years in the making is brewing over the future of East Maitland’s historic Lands Office.
And Maitland MP Jenny Aitchison fears the site could become the subject of a high-price sell-off by the NSW Government.
Uncertainty has reigned over the premise’s prospects since it was vacated by Lands staff in early 2017 to undergo refurbishment.
While those staff were moved into a new office on Maitland’s High Street, the building has since remained unoccupied.
The site was vested by the State government to its property management arm, Property NSW, in July 2014. A spokesperson said that no decision has been made yet on the future of the building, with a “number of options” still being considered.
Ms Aitchison met with Mick Veitch MLC and members of the Maitland Regional Museum on Tuesday to call for the office to remain in public hands.
The museum group have thrust their hand up for use of the building, with president Janece McDonald calling it a “perfect place” for them.
Ms Aitchison said the “ideal scenario” was for the community to manage the site on behalf of the State government.
“If they just sell this off to the highest bidder, it’s a disgrace,” Ms Aitchison said.
Ms McDonald said the office’s proximity to schools, public transport and the former convict hanging site at Stockade Hill added to its appeal.
She said the building’s size would allow them to expand their offering significantly due to space constraints in their current premises at Maitland’s Brough House. She added the museum’s proposal was to share the building with Maitland and Beyond Family History, Maitland and District Historical Society, and the Maitland clothing museum.
Ms McDonald said they had met with Property NSW regarding the site, but claimed they were told they’d have to pay commercial rates for its use.
“No community group can afford that,” she said.
The Property NSW spokesperson confirmed they had met with museum representatives but said no formal proposal had been received.
The museum group is now in the process of applying for a state grant and kicking off a fundraising campaign to be able to buy if it’s sold off. It’s understood that the market value of the building could be in the vicinity of $1.7m.