Nimbin Museum founder Michael Balderstone outside the tourist destination.
Nimbin Museum founder Michael Balderstone outside the tourist destination. The Northern Star

Police drug crackdown claims local icons

NIMBIN'S Hemp Bar will close its doors on August 29 and the future of the Nimbin Museum is unclear after police issued a letter to the land owners of both buildings requesting they evict their tenants.

The letters were issued from the NSW Crown Solicitor's Office and evoke powers under the NSW Restricted Premises Act, 1943.

"The application is based on Detective Sergeant Smith's reasonable grounds to suspect that a drug is unlawfully sold or supplied on or from the premises ... and is likely to be sold again," the letter said.

One letter was presented to Judy Hales who is a member of the Nimbin Community School cooperative.

The cooperative owns what is locally known as the 'tomato sauce building' and is home to the HEMP Embassy and the Hemp Bar.

Mrs Hales told The Northern Star a community school meeting was held that was open to members of the public, and it was decided they would act upon the letter.

"People were concerned about the fate of the building and didn't like to be placed under that threat," she said.

"People were also concerned about what would happen to the community school and its assets."

Mrs Hales said the people who ran the Hemp Bar agreed to vacate the building, saying it was 'in the best interests of the community, not just the community school'.

A similar letter is believed to have been served on the owner of the Nimbin Museum building.

The building is owned by a company associated with Sydney man, Richard Andary, who has never even been to Nimbin, according to museum founder Michael Balderstone.

The Northern Star contacted Mr Andary who declined to comment beyond saying the matter was with his solicitors.

At another meeting at Nimbin yesterday, Mr Balderstone said he would step aside if there was a way the community could take responsibility for the museum.

"I'm happy to leave if the museum can survive," he said. "I've had a lot of criticism for not stopping it (the dealing in the museum). A lot of people have said I'm too soft because I don't like seeing young boys locked up in jail.

"Since the Mardi Grass we have really worked our butts off, and in the Hemp Bar I know for a fact there has been no dealing in there, and still they've done this, which is very disappointing. What happened to community policing?"

Nimbin resident Neil Pike said the museum was 'the heart of Nimbin'.

"It would be a tragedy if the museum didn't survive as a cultural icon and centre," he said.

"There is a certain amount of illegal activity happening, there is no doubt about it, but most of the crime in this town comes from alcohol."

Police claim community support

LOCAL police boss Superintendant Bruce Lyons says the wider community supported the actions police have taken in trying to deal with drug dealing in Nimbin.

“For some time now I have made public comments about our efforts to stop drug dealing occurring in Nimbin,” he said.

“I believe we continue to have wide support for this to happen.”

Police used the Restricted Premises Act to close the Hemp Bar and the museum during this year's Mardi Grass festival, citing evidence they had gathered on raids carried out on April 1 this year.

“We still believe ongoing drug supply is occurring, and we have been in talks with the owners of the premises in an effort to cease the drug dealing,” Supt Lyons said.

“If we are unable to resolve the issue with the owners of the premises, we will have to address the matter through the District Court under the Restricted Premises Act.”

Supt Lyons said if the closure of the premises resulted in a reduction in dealing in Nimbin, he would consider it 'a good outcome'.

However, Nimbin business owner Nell Berry said the allocation of police resources was totally out of proportion for the town and didn't deal with other more serious crimes such as hard drugs and violence.

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