NEWCASTLE lord mayor Jeff McCloy wants the state government to conduct ‘‘urgent’’ roof repairs at the city’s former post office building.
Cr McCloy inspected the boarded-up post office last week and said afterwards he would push ahead with using the building to house the art gallery expansion.
‘‘I think the building is fantastic,’’ Cr McCloy said.
‘‘It’s a 2000-square-metre building with lots of storage.
‘‘There is substantial water damage, but the foundation of the building is solid.’’
The basement, reported flooded midway through last year, has since dried out.
Estimates for repairs to the 109-year old post office are $10million to $15million.
The state government bought the building for $4.25million in 2010 and did some initial repairs, but the heritage site has been left idle for more than a year while a native title claim is settled.
Cr McCloy said more work was needed in the meantime to protect the building.
‘‘It’s in urgent need of roof repairs,’’ Cr McCloy said.
‘‘The state government should find some emergency money to re-roof it and make it pigeon-proof.’’
Newcastle MP Tim Owen said in November he had spoken with representatives from Crown Lands and was assured the post office was secured from the elements and would not deteriorate further while the land claim was before the courts.
February will be a key month for the future of the art gallery expansion and the post office site.
Newcastle City Council has committed to the redevelopment of the Laman Street site, but has given the state until the end of February to match a $7million federal grant.
Supporters of the original redevelopment plan say using the post office for the gallery expansion would add to running costs and not address the ageing Laman Street site.