Battlers for Emerald Hill’s gathering place are hoping they might have progressed one step further in the battle to keep their hall afloat.
Gunnedah Shire Council held its April meeting at the Emerald Hill Hall last week, where Emerald Hill Progress Association vice-president Ian Pine seized the moment to make the group’s case to council.
“There is one big black cloud hanging over us and probably over every other community hall in Gunnedah Shire, and that is public liability and volunteer accident insurance,” Mr Pine said.
“When our progress association first re-formed, we were told by council that our public liability and volunteer accident insurance were covered by council’s insurance.
“Later, we were told to buy our own.
“We had no funds, so council lent us the premium and we have to pay it back. This we can do this year, but this liability insurance cost will kill these small community hall organisations.”
Mr Pine said two hall committees met costs by running chook raffles at a pub every Friday night, and another committee asked a levy of $10 per family per event.
“The bottom line is that this is not sustainable, and other councils have recognised this problem and have moved to address this issue, or are in the process of change.”
Mr Pine said he had sought information from five other councils.
He said following the council meeting that council general manager Eric Groth had told him he understood the group’s position and would look into the problem.
“The present system is just a schmozzle,” Mr Pine said.
A spokesperson for Gunnedah Shire Council said the progress association had said it would submit a formal request, which would be considered.
Emerald Hill Hall was built in 1922 at a cost of 600 pounds and a lot of community assistance.
But getting close to 100 years later, Mr Pine said the hall was starting to feel its age and needed a hand to ensure the work of the community in 1922 did not go to waste.
“Such an effort so soon after the end of the Great War, and in a district that lost a quarter of its able-bodied young men, is probably much of the reason for the anger and disgust felt by our current community when confronted by the proposition to sell and/or demolish this community asset – our hall,” he said.
After being told there was no provision in the council budget for the Emerald Hill Hall, Mr Pine said the progress association, with the support of the Emerald Hill CWA, “went into battle with the forces of evil to retain the hall”.
They also upgraded the kitchen with recycled cupboards, a grant, CWA funding and willing workers.
The hall has hosted events including Irish and Scottish music nights, a Beccy Cole concert and many other activities.
“That Scottish music night, with the rain pounding down on the old tin roof and 100 people dancing to world class live music will stay in our memories for a very long time,” Mr Pine said.
He said the council meeting in the hall was a “bittersweet” moment for Emerald Hill which recognised the community’s effort to retain the hall as a “symbol of our togetherness”.
He said public liability and volunteer accident insurance was the remaining battle, not just for Emerald Hill, but for many community halls.