A dispute has broken out between members of the Hay community resulting in the forced halting of plans for a disused boarding house to be turned into an isolation centre for out-of-towners.
Owner of Claughton House, Mark Lengacher, had posted onto Facebook earlier this week that he would be prepared to open the newly renovated facility for guests during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"It would be the perfect place for self-isolation," Mr Lengacher told The Daily Advertiser.
"It would mainly have been for family members and friends who might be coming back from Melbourne or somewhere, mostly Melbourne, to self-isolate before going back into the community."
Following online discussion, Hay Shire Council posted to its Facebook page a message saying it had asked Mr Lengacher to "immediately cease the use of Claughton House for backpacker, hostel, dormitory or isolation accommodation", due to fears surrounding the COVID-19 crisis.
"Council has also been in contact with both Member for Farrer and Member for Murray, as well as the local Police, and has requested their assistance in keeping Hay COVID-19 free," the post read.
Mayor of Hay Shire, Bill Sheaffe, told The Daily Advertiser he acknowledges the right of hotels in the community to continue functioning at this time, but that he believed the Claughton House plans could present an unnecessary risk.
"We don't really want an influx of people coming here who could be a threat to the health of the community," Mr Sheaffe said.
"I don't think the community would welcome that at this time. Normally though we love tourism at any time, but right now, we have to do the right thing."
After discussion, Mr Sheaffe said the council had been reticent to see large groups turn up in town, even if they were to stay in isolation.
"The only way this virus is going to come to Hay is if someone brings it into the community from outside," Mr Sheaffe said.
"We want to make sure that has no chance of happening."
Without restrictions, the facility has the capacity for up to 80 guests at any time, but given the social distancing protocols now in place, Mr Lengacher said he considered it reasonable for only up to 40 in isolation.
"We could have easily had the distance in the common rooms, they're about 500 square metres," he said.
"It was an idea I tried to flag, but it didn't work."
Having spent the past 18 months in renovation since he purchased the facility, Claughton House has only been re-opened to the public since January.
But now with the restrictions, Mr Lengacher is looking at having to leave the building dormant for a long time to come.
"This is just a vacant building at the moment," he said.
"It was a bad time to finish renovations. [In the past] we have had a lot of people through, but now that the renovations are done, there's nothing I can do."
Separate to Claughton House, Mr Lengacher has also been the proprietor of the Pretty Pine Hotel near Deniliquin.
Although this business is also suffering having had to close down its pub due to the federal restrictions. It is now only open for take-away orders.
Despite the council's decision, Mr Lengacher said he had received "a lot of positive comments, even on social media" about his thwarted plans.
"At the end of the day all I was trying to do was be proactive and offer my facility at a heavily discounted rate to people who could use it," he said.
"But that's not going to happen now."