Tweed’s mega new hospital site under scrutiny

Don Beck on the land at Cudgen. Photo Sydney Morning Herald

By Luis Feliu

Selection for the site of the northern rivers’ biggest ever infrastructure project, the half-billion-dollar-plus Tweed Valley Hospital, is nearing, but it’s feared some of the richest agricultural soil in the shire is at risk if a land parcel on the Tweed Coast is chosen.

Twenty sites around the Tweed are being considered for the NSW government’s $534 million hospital project, with a decision on the preferred site due early in 2018.

But the shire’s former longest-serving mayor has raised concerns that the rich red volcanic soils on the Cudgen plateau behind Kingscliff, long sought after by developers, could come under threat from the decision.

Max Boyd, who led Tweed council in a long campaign against the rezoning of the Cudgen agricultural area, says the state significant land must be preserved for future generations and not ‘covered by buildings’ as similar land was in Queensland and elsewhere.

A Health Infrastructure spokesperson told Echonetdaily an announcement on the preferred site would be made following the end of the due diligence process on the sites and is expected in early 2018.

Mr Boyd, AM, who was a member of a project team that successfully recommended the land be protected by the government’s classification of state significance, says it’s a real possibility the Cudgen land could be selected despite the long opposition to development there.

The preferred land zone at Cudgen includes a large parcel linked to the family of former mayor Lynne Beck and her husband Don, a former MP for Murwillumbah and state government whip.

It has had many contentious proposals for rezoning to enable either schools, churches, shopping centres, a university campus and a major police headquarters there, but all have been ruled out due to flooding fears or other restrictions.

Mr Boyd said he had taken a keen personal interest in the issue and had sent a submission about his concerns in identifying the ‘very important site’ to the group engaged by the government to carry out the due diligence.

He said he had thoroughly researched the site’s significance and its accessibility to the Pacific Motorway ‘to ensure that it provided the best possible access for this Hospital to service the extended population from the Queensland/NSW border right down into Byron shire’.

‘The only area that I fear may be considered is the Cudgen Plateau,’ he told Echonetdaily.

‘I fear this because it may appear to be the easy solution. It has a long history of opposition to development by Tweed Shire Council because it was identified by the state as being land of state significance following a protracted period of investigation, consultation and review by a project team of 10 members, of which I was a member, and which commenced its protracted inquiry and ultimate recommendation in July 2002.

‘The project area included land in the Tweed, Byron, Kyogle, Lismore, Richmond Valley and Ballina local government areas.

‘In my time in Tweed Shire Council, the following are four examples of attempts being made by various persons to gain approval to build on this land:

‘A campus of the Southern Cross University (the university itself respected the state’s zoning of this land and ruled it out); a church on a portion of this land which council opposed successfully in a court action; a proposal to build a major shopping centre on a farm within the land zoned as being of State Significance and; more recently, a plan had reached an advanced stage of preparation to build a [police] station on this land, before the authorities, when made aware of its zoning, took no further action to build on this site.

‘So with this background, it is my fervent hope that the state authorities will respect their own forward planning and retain this magnificent parcel of agricultural land for future generations and do not allow it to be covered by buildings as so many of the red volcanic soils along the coast in Redland Shire to our north have been lost forever.’

Mr Boyd said the hospital ‘logically must be built on a site that is above the maximum probable flood’.

‘With the benefit of hindsight, it is now obvious that the site chosen for the Tweed Heads hospital was far too small and did not allow for the explosion of population that has occurred since it was opened in 1973… it is susceptible to flooding of greater than a 1 in 100 year event (it is much below the maximum probable flood level) and it has totally inadequate parking available for visitors, staff, doctors and patients.

‘It is logical to expect that the site for this very expensive utility will be on a very expansive site that will be above the maximum probable flood level; provide for future expansion as Tweed Shire population continues to grow; allow for the provision for other allied facilities such as an ambulance station, police station; state emergency service; a helicopter pad and also a fire station.

‘And it should not be sited within an area zoned for future urban expansion,’ he said.

The new, state-of-the-art hospital to cater for the region’s growing population was announced last year by NSW treasurer Dominic Perrottet, deputy premier John Barilaro, minister for health Brad Hazzard and Tweed MP Geoff Provest during a visit to the Tweed Hospital.

Mr Barilaro said the new hospital would ‘greatly improve health services for the region, which is forecast to grow by more than 40 per cent to 128,000 people by 2031’.

Some facilities of the new hospital will likely include: more overnight beds and operating theatres, a larger emergency department, an integrated cancer care service and enhanced cardiac care services.

The government has been searching for property from Tweed Heads South to Pottsville, between eight to 16 hectares of land for building and situated around 10-15 kilometres inland.

A Health Infrastructure spokesperson said ‘these assessments consider each site’s suitability against a range of criteria including population locality, transport and access, local environment and heritage, flood and bushfire zones, connection to existing community facilities and utilities, as well as cost and value.’

One of those being looked at is the site for one of the state’s biggest housing developments, Kings Forest for 4,500 homes, being developed by Gold Coast-based Leda Holdings.

Leda’s acquisition manager Richard Duce told media he believed the site, inland from Casuarina and to be accessed by the Tweed Coast Road, was an ‘ideal’ and ‘logical’ location.

9 responses to “Tweed’s mega new hospital site under scrutiny”

  1. Vince Kean says:

    Max as usual is totally correct. This is an important agricultural area and must be preserved. It is integral to the areas unique character and attractiveness.

    • Neviile says:

      What unique character and attractiveness ?

      • Peter Hatfield says:

        To many people the agricultural land with a backdrop of greens hills and more distant mountains around the Northern Rivers is highly attractive; the sentinel presence of Mt Warning in the Tweed makes that landscape quite unique.

  2. Peter Hatfield says:

    The call for Expressions of interest for the land specified that it needed to be up to 10 to 15km inland – it did not have to be that far inland. Considering public transport access to a hospital is important, it would be preferable if it were closer to the coast and so the main bus route, and the future busway flagged in the Tweed Shire transport strategy. .

  3. Roger Graf says:

    Population locality must be forefront of any ‘best’ location for the need of a hospital position followed by the best available infrastructure to ensure the quickest response time for the patient.
    Finally, the location of the hospital must be a merit system as to the nearest public hospital for the locality due to population density. I believe that the closest public hospitals are: Murwillumbah, Byron Bay to the south and Robina, Beaudesert, Gold Coast University Hospital to the north all within a diameter of 100kms from Byron Bay Hospital to the south to approx. Beaudesert & Gold Coast University Hospital to the north.
    The ideal location for population and infrastructure as is for today needs is to be acquired at Tweed Heads West.
    The exact location would be; the entrance ramp at Parkes Drive [located near the sewage treatment works to the M1and twisting to the south of Kennedy Drive, but also allowing an ingress and egress to both sides of the Gold Coast Hwy [formally the Pacific Hwy] into the access of Ourimbah Road and advisable to close the Border Park Raceway associated to this land and place the Border Park Raceway in a locality that would be more conducive to be adjacent to Anconia Ave and Tulgi Way, Cobaki where there is abundant space for Border Park Raceway to develop.
    To develop to the south of the Tweed and cater specifically for the Northern Rivers means that you are doing a disservice to our most southern Queensland patient who are equally in need of a new hospital infrastructure.

  4. Marion says:

    Of course Max is correct. This precious prime agrictural land must be preserved for future generations to provide food. It must not be built upon & destroyed. During floods this area has no road access. The Cudgen community & farmers have been fighting to preserve this fine soil for decades. King’s Forest is the ideal spot for the hospital.

  5. Marianne Melnikas says:

    [Is] Max Boyd miffed that his land is not being considered?
    My enquiries have provided the following information:
    The land must be easily accessed by road
    Be able to accommodate a possible private hospital
    Professional Consultant suites away from the public hospital
    allow for expansion of the hospital as the population grows
    What Mr Boyd forgets, if the red soil has not been farmed for many
    years and whoever owns it has no intention of using it for primary
    industry they have the right to sell it to whoever wants to buy it.
    The land may be red fertile soil, if no one wants to farm it, then what??
    Fallow land put up for consideration within close proximity to Tweed Heads
    is the ideal solution.
    To me it sounds like everyone else wants the new Tweed Hospital will be the Major Hospital for the whole of the Northern Rivers.
    All the areas mentioned by others have there own NEW hospitals.
    The Tweed needs a new hospital that can be accessed by the M1, be able to have a link to light rail.
    Leda are only interested in their owns interests – if a hospital was built in Kings Forest, Leda would want heaps for for each block of land.

  6. Robyn says:

    Kings Forest has a single access over a watercourse that is prone to flash flooding. If a fire broke out the place becomes a crematorium. Queensland is a seperate state and who is paying?
    Great idea I hope they find an appropriate solution.

  7. graco says:

    The Becks supported by their National Party cronies have been falling over themselves to get her inherited land rezoned for years . Uni , Church , School , Police Station , Emergency Services Center , Shopping Center , the list goes on . For Community ? …[or] because there are millions in it for them …. This has been strongly opposed by both Tweed Shire Council and the vast majority of the Community, and no it’s not the vocal minority as the money grubbers who are the minority would have you believe . Everyone knows Developers have been trying to get their claws on it for years . Once they get a foot in the door that plateau is gone . It has the best agricultural land in the country which is why it’s classified 1A . You can plonk houses anywhere , putting houses on the best agricultural land is a seriously dumb thing to do . The National Party was formed to represent farmers and their interests . What it now represents is mining , on prime agricultural land I might add , BIG business and development .

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