The prospect of locating a hospital on prime Cudgen farmland has a seen group of locals jumping into bed with developer Leda Holdings, which is making a play to have the hospital at its Kings Forest development, even though the site selection process has already ruled it out.
But the Kings Forest option has been described by Tweed’s Team Koala group as ‘horrifying’ and ‘a disaster for the Tweed’s remaining koalas’.
Monday saw around 600 people attend an open day at the Kings Forest site, according to Tweed Valley Hospital Relocate Group spokesperson Barbara Roughan.
‘Not a bad effort from only four days advertising,’ Ms Roughan told Echonetdaily, although the event and hospital site had in fact been heavily promoted in local newspapers, a website, a Facebook page and via signage along Tweed Valley way.
‘Everyone was surprised at the open land as they were expecting dense forests,’ Ms Roughan said.
‘The proposed hospital site of 33 hectares is big enough to fit a private hospital and specialist centre which are on board to come if the public hospital is approved here.
‘This area will provide lovely views of the nature reserve, thus a true healing environment,’ Ms Roughan said.
Already ruled out
But a comprehensive site selection process conducted by NSW Health Infrastructure has already ruled the site out on seven grounds, including that 70 per cent of it was flood prone, 30 per cent was adjacent to a former tip site that had the potential to release toxic gases and the entire site was in the middle of a koala corridor.
The site also lacked easy access, with just one road in and out and had potential Aboriginal heritage impacts, according to the selection criteria, which can be viewed here.
None of that phased Leda’s management, however, who have embarked on a major advertising campaign and the commissioning of a website which allows visitors to directly send community feedback forms to the state government.
According to Murdoch media, the company also hired the services of Gold Coast lobbyist Simone Holzapfel, a former long-time adviser to Tony Abbott and Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate, to assist them in their bid.
Team Koala ‘horrified’
Jenny Hayes, of Team Koala, who has spent much of the last decade tangling with Leda and its plans for Kings Forest, said she had only become aware of its revived interest in the hospital a few weeks ago.
‘Our group were extremely horrified at the thought of an A-grade hospital in the middle of koala habitat. We were mortified and didn’t believe that could be feasible or possible,’ she told Echonetdaily.
‘It was only 12 months ago that Leda put in a fourth lot of modifications to remove almost all remaining koala protections at Kings Forest.
‘In 2017 we had a big march through Kingscliff that resulted in more than 2,000 written submissions saying that taking out most of the koala protection levels would spell disaster.
20,000 trees missing
‘Back in 2011 Leda promised to plant 20,000 trees. Then, last year they put in modifications [to their development application] to take these away, together with planned koala underpasses.
‘Now they’re promising 22,000 – how about the 20,000 promised back in 2010? There hasn’t been any evidence of helping the koalas, not one tree planted, since 2009.’
Ms Hayes said that when the Kings Forest concept plan was first approved ‘there was no mention of a hospital’.
‘Suddenly there is this huge campaign by the developer, putting massive signs all along the Tweed Coast Way. The council took them down but now they’re back up again.
‘Kings Forest had the most points against it compared to most of the 30 alternative sites, so why on earth would the government consider putting it there?’
Ms Hayes said her group would continue to object to the proposal.
‘We’ve got about 1,200 members, and have amazing community support from all walks of life.
‘Our faith has been lost in this developer.’
Community feedback closes on June 14. You can have your say at: tweedvalleyhospital.health.nsw.gov.au.