Labor’s Justine Elliot and Walt Secord, together with Tweed councillor Reece Byrnes, have called on the state government to ‘release a full list of the alternative sites considered for a new Tweed Hospital,’ saying while they supported better health outcomes, they were alarmed by the ‘cloak of secrecy’ surrounding the selection of the location.
And a local activist has described the move as ‘the most cynical act of political hypocrisy visited upon the shire in the last 20 years’.
As reported last week, Health Minister Brad Hazzard and Tweed National MP Geoff Provest have announced a new Tweed Hospital will be built on a 23-hectare site on prime agricultural land at Cudgen.
Labor wants to know why the Cudgen agricultural site was selected from 29 possible sites on NSW Health Infrastructure’s list.
In 2002, the land was designated and classified as ‘land of state significance’ due to its rich, red volcanic soil. Property developers have been seeking its re-zoning since the 1980s.
NSW Shadow Minister for the North Coast Walt Secord, Federal MP for Richmond Justine Elliot said while they support ‘better health outcomes in the Tweed’ but questioned why the Berejiklian government picked the controversial site.
Lack of transparency
More than 200 local residents have attended a community meeting about the selection of the site and Mr Secord said his office had been ‘inundated with emails about the location and lack of transparency’.
‘People were also very anxious about the decision-making processes,’ he said.
‘Like so many decisions by the Berejiklian government, the Tweed Hospital announcement is made without proper consultation. They just drop it on the community without giving them proper input.
‘Tweed Hospital is under enormous pressure and better hospital services are needed, but few people were consulted,’ he said.
Ms Elliot attacked Tweed MP Geoff Provest, who she said had ‘ignored the local community’.
‘The community has a right to be involved in the decision-making process.’
‘The community is also very concerned about a backdoor means to encourage over-development.’
Tweed Deputy Mayor and Labor Councillor Reece Byrnes added, ‘sadly, there is a cloak of secrecy surrounding the Tweed Hospital decision.’
‘The community wants better health services, but they have to be properly consulted.’
Meanwhile Kingscliff activist and council-watcher Jeremy Cornford has described the site selection as ‘the most cynical act of political hypocrisy visited upon the shire in the last 20 years’.
‘It’s first about freeing up the Kingscliff/Cudgen plateau for unbounded urban development, thwarted since 2002 by its’ listing as protected prime agricultural land,’ he told Echonetdaily.
‘As a state significant project the hospital campus will be free of Kingscliff’s 3-storey height limit, opening the way for endless developer appeals to extend multi-storey expansion to Marine Parade and Pearl Street. Welcome to the Gold Coast Mark Two.
‘The second ploy is to try to save Geoff Provest’s National Party seat in the 2019 elections. In 2015 Provest’s majority slipped from 22 percent to almost nil; marginal barely describes it,’ he said.
‘The tender documents on the Health Department website note a planned construction start in November this year, conveniently bypassing the new hospital as a running election issue.
‘It’s planning madness to situate the new hospital south of the river when the majority of the population, increasing when Cobaki Lakes comes on stream, lives to the north.
‘There is little public transport to Kingscliff, no transport hub as in Tweed/Coolangatta and no prospect of future rail, light rail or skyrail service. All road access to the new site other than from the Kingscliff business precinct is blocked during floods.
‘As for the new site “being 30 minutes or less drive from anywhere in the Tweed,” you can drive from one end of the Tweed to the other in that time or less.
‘The greatest irony is that those remaining National-aligned shire councillors, who’ve long lauded Kingscliff as the holiday jewel in the Tweed crown, will be able to witness the immediate destruction of Kingscliff as a tourism destination. Ambulance sirens 24/7, 24-hour helicopter movements, insufficient infrastructure, an almost complete lack of public transport and parking and traffic nightmares will turn the Cafe Strip into a ghost zone.
‘You won’t find many award-winning restaurants, gift and fashion shops or boutique accommodation venues within a kilometre of the current Tweed Hospital,’ Mr Cornford said.