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Byron Shire
February 27, 2021

Tweed Hospital site selection ‘cloaked in secrecy’

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The red soils of the Cudgen plateau are too precious to be subdivided, say Labor and local opponents of the new Tweed Hospital site. Photo Tweed Shire Council

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.’

Political hypocrisy

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.

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  1. I am glad the new hospital site has finally been announced. This letter is one of support to the team that chose Kingscliff/Cudgen as the site of a much needed new hospital in the Tweed region.

    The current Tweed hospital sits on a site of a bit over 4 hectares. This is a site a lot smaller than the proposed 23 acre site at Kingscliff. There is no point having half a hospital in one suburb and half of the health services in another location 10 minutes away. It all has to be in one central location so people do not have to move from one location to the next to see a doctor/specialist, get a blood test, get medication, see a nurse etc.

    Being close to the M1 offramp – The site selected is an excellent choice for the next 20, 50 even 100 years as it is in an areas with room to grow, it is not on a floodplain like the current hospital and it is located near the majority of the current and future population of the Tweed. If you did a pinpoint on a map as to the current (and expected) future demographic centre of the Tweed region then it would be much closer to Kingscliff than Tweed Heads/Coolangatta.
    I can never see Tweed Heads developing any more and going skyscraper crazy like Coolangatta and the Gold Coast. But I can anticipate with new housing estates in Murwillumbah, Pottsville and Kings Forest,- Every year the demographic centre of the region is most likely moving south and west- away from the current hospital site on the Tweed River. I am sure 90% of the population now and the future will access this new hospital in less than 30 minutes drive.

    With Plans in place to make Tweed Coast Road a four lane road then i think that there will be no bottlenecks to access this new hospital. It will have access to it from two off-ramps of the M1 – both Kingscliffs exits. Roads from the north, south, east and west will come to this hospital site, so I cannot think of a better choice of elevated land for a new health facilities.

    I have considered the complaints from a small minority of the population. Their complaints are exaggerated – my favourite “farmers are going to be losing income and it will be impossible to keep going (to be a farmer once a hospital is built in the same suburb”)!!!!! This is as smart as saying if restaurant shuts down in a town then all other restaurants in the town will lose money. I tend to think the exact opposite – more demand and income for the remaining restaurants!

    Another of the the minor complaints: “During a flood this new hospital will be difficult to access” – well so will the existing site and everyone is affected during a flood like the April 2017 flood – it is hard to get anywhere in the major floods. Not a reason for changing a hospital site.
    “We fought to stop this site to be a police HQ, now we will do it again with this hospital” – Well not everyone wants to live next to a police station – mostly criminals coming and going. However everyone wants to live close to the best medical care in an emergency or when they need help. So this is not a valid comparison at all. “The high school and TAFE already attract large numbers to the area” – well 5 days a week and only for about 20 minutes in the morning and 20 minutes in the afternoon is there any mild traffic in the area. For 99% of the week that area is traffic free.
    Then there is the “thin edge of the wedge argument” – sell off one farm and they all will follow in quick succession. This ‘thin edge’ is articulate as the gay marriage opposers who said a similar argument that once marriage definition is changed slightly then humans will be marrying animals and objects in no time. It will not happen – each single block of land has to be voted on in parliament if it changes from farmland to another activity. We are only discussing one block of land for a health facility – that is actually here to help people.

    The first serious complaint is the lack of public transport to Kingscliff (and in the region generally). To that I would say that almost all north-south buses in the region goes through Kingscliff. For the far flung areas – people can drive their own cars, or get their family or neighbours to give lifts. There may be community buses for large retirement villages as another option. There are also useful things called taxies and UberX where you pay people to drive you places if you cannot buy a car and no friends or family have one. They even offer a offer door to door service as well – something most buses do not do. In emergencies the ambulance service will come to anyones home to take them to the new hospital. In the next decade when this hospital is fully operation there may even be driverless cars for the people who dislike all the above options. You cannot expect the main regional hospital to be an easy walking distance for every elderly resident in the region – it is simply a unfounded argument to keep the hospital at the Tweed river ‘because the buses go there more often than to Kingscliff’. Bus timetables and routes can change over time.

    And this site will be over 5 times bigger in land compared to the current hospital – parking will likely be at least 5 times bigger than the current site but only double the number of hospital beds – you do the maths, parking will not be an issue.

    This hospital site is a long walk from the Marine Parade cafe and restaurant strip – I do not think it will be a negative impact that area at all except be a nice place to go for people who need a break after visiting sick people for hours.
    I completely agree with you that 3 storey height limit should remain for all other areas of Kingscliff and all beaches down to Pottsville.

    I have more to say but that is enough for now.

  2. WOW, Nathan really should get his facts straight before he writes on here..Do you know why it’s cloaked in secrecy? It’s simply a matter of who owns the land, In this case it’s the Beck family, you know Don (who once held this electorate) & Lyn who at one time was on tweed shire council. Wouldn’t do if too many people found out about their latest windfall,Might be embarrassing.

  3. I would propose that the hospital would stay where it is and build hospital facilities in every large community throughout the Tweed so the patient would have their surgery in Tweed Heads and their after care would be provided near their home in an out patient hospital so their families can be closer instead of someone having to drive long distances from Pottsville or further west to see their loved ones to and fro which does make it difficult for the elderly and having to put up with the public transport system that takes a considerable amount of time each way .
    This way the population increases will always be catered for and the public will feel safer they live in close proximity to emergency medical services .

  4. It looks like the domino effect continues to roll. On the red soil, firstly it was the library, followed by the swimming pool, secondary school, TAFE and the roundabout. All government decisions opposed by the community. Now it is the regional hospital. As Doug Paddon has said, only 2% of the Tweed is farmable red soil.. The State Government itself designated this land as land of State significance because of the rich red soil. There ARE other suitable sites that do not have floodable access. The whole process should have been made transparent, and so should be started again. Let us also see what the Labor pollies do, mre than just saying that they are opposed to the decision.


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