March 10, 2017
Nanango’s Ringsfield House will close its doors on March 31 for six to eight weeks while the South Burnett Regional Council searches for a new operator and straightens out the historic property’s land titles.
South Burnett Mayor Keith Campbell said he was confident a new operator for Ringsfield could be found by the end of May.
While Ringsfield is closed, its grounds and gardens will be maintained by Council’s outdoor staff.
Community groups who use the complex’s minor buildings and grounds for meetings, exercise classes or film screenings will be able to continue as usual.
The Nanango Historical Society will compile an inventory of all the historical artefacts held for display at Ringsfield, along with their maintenance and cleaning procedures, to ensure they are properly cared for into the future.
And the South Burnett Regional Council will call for expressions of interest to run the complex on a sound business footing.
This plan was outlined at a public meeting held at Ringsfield House on Thursday night.
About 30 people attended, including the Nanango Historical Society’s executive, South Burnett Mayor Keith Campbell, fellow councillors, and Member for Maranoa David Littleproud.
Nanango Historical Society president Ros Gregor said the Society had to step down from the management of Ringsfield House because it had become too exhausting for the group’s volunteers.
After 20 years spent building up what is generally acknowledged as one of south-east Queensland’s finest historic complexes, age and a shortage of volunteers had taken its inevitable toll.
Mayor Keith Campbell said the whole community owed “an enormous debt of gratitude” to the Society for the countless hours of work they’d devoted to Ringsfield over the past two decades.
While Council was sorry to see the Nanango Historical Society leave Ringsfield, he believed the move would offer a chance to correct some outstanding issues and ultimately usher in better times for the complex.
One key issue that needed to be addressed was the property’s land titles, he said.
When Council had been informed of the Society’s intention to step down, Council officers discovered the property’s current titles meant Ringsfield Cafe and the building’s commercial kitchen were technically in breach of regulations.
The Council will now enter into negotiations with the Department of Natural Resources and Mines to have Ringsfield’s titles converted to freehold, which will allow the cafe and kitchen to reopen.
The Council will also call for expressions of interest to run Ringsfield House.
The Mayor said Council had already had some verbal expressions of interest, and he was confident a new operator would emerge.
But whether this was another community group or a commercial operator remained to be seen.
The meeting then took questions from the floor.
In response to a suggestion Council hire a full-time manager for the complex, Cr Terry Fleischfresser said this would create a precedent that could be potentially costly for ratepayers.
“If we do this for one community group, how long would it be before we were asked to do it for someone else?,” Cr Fleischfresser said.
In response to a question about who would care for and maintain the complex, Mayor Campbell said the task of looking after Ringsfield’s historic artefacts would be a condition imposed on any future leaseholder.
And in response to concerns the proposed 6 to 8 week shutdown might turn into a 6-12 month closure, Mayor Campbell said Council officers had told him this was the amount of time they needed to get the land titles sorted and expressions of interest tabled.
“I have to accept their professional advice,” the Mayor said.
“However, if we can do it any faster we certainly will.”