Several community groups with a vision to lease the former Department of Lands building at East Maitland from the State, are reeling this week with news the building will be sold.
Members of the organisations, including Maitland Regional Museum President Dr Janece McDonald, were left gobsmacked by the government's decision and angered they were not consulted.
The groups now plan to appeal the State's decision. "This is an iconic public building and we urge Maitland residents to email Property Minister Melinda Pavey and object to the sale and support the use of the site as a significant heritage and cultural hub for Maitland," Dr McDonald said.
Maitland MP Jenny Aitchison said in November that the NSW Government would be using "double standards" if it didn't sell the vacant office to the community for a dollar after doing just that in Moree. The government recently sold the vacant Moree Crown Lands office to Moree Plains Shire Council on behalf of the community for $1.
A State Government spokesperson said government policy is to sell under-utilised property assets and reinvest the proceeds into infrastructure and better services. "The former Crown Lands Office in Maitland has been declared surplus to whole of government requirements. It will now proceed to auction via an open market process.
"The Maitland Regional Museum and other local bodies will have the opportunity to purchase the property via the open market process," the spokesperson said.
Ms Aitchison said this was another example of the Berejiklian Government selling off public assets to continue its Sydney-centric spending spree.
Dr McDonald said she and representatives from the other groups will continue to lobby for the building to be handed to Maitland Regional Museum under a community trusteeship. "It's disappointing the residents of Maitland and their wishes have been totally disregarded," Dr McDonald said. "To this day we have not been contacted or notified officially."
Other groups that planned to operate from the site included Maitland and District Historical Society, Maitland Museum of Clothing, Maitland and Beyond Family History and learning group U3A Maitland. Maitland Regional Museum had flagged plans to operate from the former Maitland Mercury building but was unsuccessful in a grant application and had no funds available to purchase the property.
Ms Aitchison said the government could have preserved the heritage of the Department of Lands building by opening much needed, affordable space for community groups. "And enhance the city's tourism potential. Sadly they have failed."