PLANS AHEAD: The 1.4h site will be transformed, viewing the plans are Jill Nash advocate for ageing, Father Michael, Michelle Royce SCCA, Vanessa Nolan DON SCCA, Belinda from Hidden Link Cafe and Neil Wendt CEO SCCA.
PLANS AHEAD: The 1.4h site will be transformed, viewing the plans are Jill Nash advocate for ageing, Father Michael, Michelle Royce SCCA, Vanessa Nolan DON SCCA, Belinda from Hidden Link Cafe and Neil Wendt CEO SCCA. Trevor Veale

An oasis saved.

THE "for sale” sign and the overgrown gardens at Cockbains Nursery, Hogbin Dr, Sawtell, said it all.

This once-premier local nursery closed its doors more than two years ago and, with the Hidden Link Cafe on the same site recently serving last coffees, it marked the end of a 40-year era for this 1.4h site.

After initial interest from a buyer who wanted to fill in the lagoon, bulldoze the remaining gardens and build a service station on the property, the community's prayers for something more "people friendly” have been answered.

"The site had been earmarked for development into industrial sheds and a service station, however, like all developments, the process became long-winded,” said Kel Gibson, from The Edge Commercial which negotiated the sale.

"The diocese of Sawtell and Marion Grove/Mater Christi saw an opportunity to retain the magical ambience and the natural beauty and bird/wildlife as part of the Marion Grove vision. They purchased the site in February with plans afoot to bring the site back to it previous glory including the cafe. It's a win/win for the entire community,” he said.

It's a happy ending for the Cockbain family and an exciting beginning for Sawtell Catholic Care of the Aged.

SCCA communications co-ordinator Michelle Royce said: "The former Cockbain's Nursery site will become an addition to our SCCA Village.

"Our residents as well as the local community will gain the benefit of these wonderful grounds which will be restored and opened up, including sensory garden walks designed for people living with dementia.

"We are currently working on making the site safe and accessible as well as applying for funding through local grants to assist with the process of restoring and upgrading buildings to the required level for use in this exciting project.”

Still in the planning stages, the aim is to build an inclusive community around the arts with programs, events and research that will enhance the quality of life for socially isolated and vulnerable people both living at home and in residential care.

SCCA CEO Neil Wendt said a wish-list for the site included a village green and community garden where residents could put their hands into the soil.

"The café will reopen to the public, the rare plants will be saved and the buildings are earmarked for an innovative and exciting 'creative ageing' venue, a first for Coffs Harbour,” he said.

"We intend the whole area will be a designated 'dementia friendly' zone, designed and compatible with the needs of people living with dementia as well as accessible and useful for all members of the community.”

Good news for coffee-lovers is that Belinda and the team from the Hidden Link Cafe are back on board and will be part of the project and first to open. It is estimated the rest of the work will be completed in about 12 months.

"All the plans and ideas we have for the site align with the spirit of our vision and mission, allowing SCCA the opportunity to create positive change within and to care for older people and people living with dementia in many different ways,” Ms Royce said.

"Most people remember Cockbain's Sawtell Nursery, incorporating a café and lagoon, all nestled within an immaculate and beautiful garden setting.

"The Cockbain family has been a big part of Sawtell history and Joan Cockbain was a long-term resident of Mater Christi.”

With the words "positive ageing” at the forefront of everything planned for this site, the team at SSCA are excited about the future.



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