QUEANBEYAN'S historic Rusten House is one step closer to a makeover and a new life as a community facility after a NSW Government grant of $7,000 this week to remove asbestos from the heritage site.
Premier Barry O'Farrell visited Queanbeyan on Wednesday to announce the grant, and said it was partly a 175th anniversary gift to help preserve Queanbeyan's first dedicated hospital.
"Progress means that we end up with great hospitals delivering first class health services, but there are parts of our history that deserve to be preserved, and this building certainly does," he said.
"So that's why when John Barilaro contacted me I was happy to provide a grant to help with the removal of asbestos, so that hopefully, with the local health district and Queanbeyan City Council, we can ensure that this building is preserved for future uses of this community," he said.
Rusten House was built in 1861 and was named after the hospital's first matron, Mrs Mary Rusten, who occupied the position for 28 years.
The old stonework building is currently being transferred from state ownership to Queanbeyan City Council. It was agreed between NSW Health and Council that the Council would be responsible for all costs relating to the subdivision, restoration and ongoing maintenance of the site.
However, after asbestos was detected within the property, the NSW Government has provided the Council with a one-off grant of $7,000 to manage its disposal.
Mayor Tim Overall welcomed the premier's visit, and emphasised the importance of the heritage-listed site for Queanbeyan.
"This is a very special place; this is Queanbeyan's heritage. And the handover from the state government to Queanbeyan City Council will see this become a real community asset and a tourist attraction in the future," he said.
Early estimates of the full restoration cost range between $180,000 and $230,000, and Cr Overall said he'd be seeking expressions of interest from the community on how best to use the building.
"There's been a number of suggestions ... but they all have a common theme: how can we use this best for the community. Whether it be a photographic or heritage history gallery of Queanbeyan, a tourist attraction, a place for community meetings and garden fetes, those sorts of things," he said.
Premier O'Farrell also joined the Queanbeyan Health Waking Group for their morning walk while in Queanbeyan on Wednesday morning, and later planted trees in Ray Morton Park with Mayor Overall and John Barilaro to commemorate Queanbeyan's 175th anniversary.