By Luis Feliu
A Tweed shire councillor says the NSW government’s preferred site for a half-billion dollar Tweed Valley Hospital will pave the way for the destruction on prime agricultural land at Cudgen west of Kingscliff.
Local vegetable farmers working the prized red soils of Cudgen are also said to be incensed about the decision by Tweed MP Geoff Provest and state health minister Brad Hazzard (see our story at https://www.echo.net.au/2018/04/new-site-5bn-tweed-valley-hospital-announced/)
It is also a concern to local wildlife watchers who say endangered koalas and glossy black cockatoos frequent the area, just west of Kingscliff township.
While Mr Provest says the decision will bring a ‘jobs bonanza’, Kingscliff-based Cr Ron Cooper calls it a ‘a disgrace’ as it means losing prime agricultural land which many wanted to preserve.
The site, at the corner of Turnock Street and Cudgen Road opposite Kingscliff TAFE, would also be locked in during major floods in the area.
Rumours that the site is believed to be owned or controlled by local National Party ‘royalty’, Don and Lynne Beck (both former state MP and Tweed mayor respectively) have been denied by the office of National Party member for Tweed, Geoff Provest.
A spokesperson for Mr Provest stated that ‘Don Beck has never held any interest in this land, his family owns a separate and distinct portion of land in Cudgen and is not involved in this project.’
‘The site has mixed zoning including residential, agricultural and a nature reserve,’ the spokesperson said.
‘Development of this site will not fragment the Cudgen Plateau and its size allows for future hospital expansion and health and education developments without encroaching on surrounding farmland.’
When Echonetdaily asked if the Beck’s land would benefit from any re-zoning of the are in relation to the hospital Mr Provest’s office stated that ‘The Beck’s land is not involved with the hospital development in any way.’
A blow to Cudgen plateau
The decision is seen as a blow in the hard-fought saga to save Cudgen plateau’s unique agricultural status, since the Anglican Church lost a court battle to build a school on another nearby parcel of prime farming land about 15 years ago.
A former longstanding Tweed mayor Max Boyd, who fought for years to stop the rezoning of the land, was not surprised by the decision to site the hospital there (see our previous story at https://www.echo.net.au/2017/12/tweeds-mega-new-hospital-site-scrutiny/
Cr Cooper told Echonetdaily that it was ‘a disgrace to lose prime agricultural land and ‘sad to lose the much-loved rural entry to Kingscliff’.
He said a survey of 1,200 people attending the Kingscliff market recently showed that 97 per cent wanted to preserve the Cudgen farmlands from development.
‘It’s important that the state government release the reasons other sites were not acceptable,’ Cr Cooper said.
‘It is essential that if the hospital is built on the prominent Cudgen farmlands, that Kingscliff’s three-storey height limit is respected.
He said it was believed the government changed the designation of the land from Land of State Significance to Land of State Importance, which was a ‘a bit like changing Lot 490 from Crown Land to Government Property.’
Cr Cooper said it was changed ‘In both instances without consultation. In the first instance it was done to remove the protection from development secured by the Prime Agricultural Land zoning.
‘In the second it was to allow Lot 490 to be sold in freehold.
‘If the state government has changed the designation (to be confirmed) on the south side of Cudgen Road it would benefit the Becks.
‘That would pave the way for the total destruction of the prime agricultural lands of Cudgen,’ Cr Cooper said.