Build back better: Beaut hall opens years after bushfires

ABOVE: A Rappville Public School student helps unveil the hall plaque with Sir Peter Cosgrove, Dave Newby, Robert Mustow and Kevin Hogan.

Susanna Freymark

Build back better wasn’t just a saying when it came to restoring Rappville.

In 2019, houses, outlying properties and the village hall were destroyed in bushfires.

Richmond Valley Council were determined to build back better and the opening of the new Rappville Hall is testament to that.

“We made a commitment that Rappville would not be forgotten,” Mayor Robert Mustow said.

Yesterday, Monday, February 27, almost 200 people came to the official opening at the new hall.

There was a lot to admire – the high ceilings with modern fans, the shiny spotted gum floors and the wide square decks perfect for outdoor dining.

On October 8, 2019, the hall built in 1927 was burned to the ground.

Mr Mustow said in developing the plans for the new hall, located on what is now called the Rappville Common, the council worked with BizRebuild, a bushfire-recovery initiative of the Business Council of Australia.

The council also bought St John’s Anglican Church and surrounding land from the Anglican Diocese of Grafton for a “generous price”.

The $1.5million hall project was designed by architect Virginia Kerridge and funded by BizRebuild’s Community Rebuilding Trust, the Australian Government’s National Bushfire Recovery Agency and Richmond Valley Council. Some of the council’s contribution came from an insurance claim from the old hall.

Sir Peter Cosgrove is chair of BizRebuild and he was in Rappville for the opening.

“This hall is a ripper,” he said.

Hall committee president Dave Newby talked to the audience about the days after the fire.

“Four hundred power poles had to be repaired,” Mr Newby said.

He lamented the loss of 20 people from the village. Some had died and others had decided to leave Rappville.

“It’s left a big hole in our community,” he said.

The council worked with the Rappville Advisory Group of five residents to respond to what the community wanted.

Some locals wanted the new hall to be built on the site of the burned hall.

Mr Mustow said it was a site that flooded.

“I lived next door to the hall for 26 years,” Mr Newby said.

“I had my 21st and my 40th birthday there.

“At the school concert Mrs Gulliver played the piano.”

I got splinters in my bum from the floor, he said.

Mr Newby looked out across the large room at the rows and rows of people who had come to the opening.

“We’re going to build new memories,” he said.

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