Tweed MP Geoff Provest (Nationals) says ground work for the new Tweed Valley Hospital will start before the end of 2018, adding the project’s first planning approval documents will be lodged soon.
But the opposition says the government is rushing to start the project before next year’s state election in order to cement in the controversial Kingscliff site.
Mr Provest said the new hospital, at a cost of more than half a billion dollars, is ‘the largest single infrastructure investment currently underway in regional NSW’.
He said that detailed planning studies are already underway on the site at 771 Cudgen Road, opposite Kingscliff TAFE, ‘including: geotechnical, archaeological and Aboriginal heritage; ecological and agricultural assessment; and acoustic monitoring’.
But Labor, the Greens and members of the community have been fighting the siting of the hospital on prime, state significant Cudgen farmland and have called for no ground work to be done before the March 2019 election.
Still the government is pushing ahead with investigations, including the sinking of boreholes to determine the type of foundations required for the new hospital buildings, driveways and car parking.
It is also preparing to lodge environmental assessments with the planning and environment department, which is the next step in progressing planning approvals.
Height of arrogance
Mr Provest added that site works will commence once planning processes are completed, with the target of beginning ‘early and enabling works’ by the end of 2018 and having the new hospital completed in 2022 and open in 2023.
But NSW shadow health minister Walt Secord said ‘the National Party’s refusal to listen the community and push ahead with the Cudgen agricultural farmland site is the height of arrogance.’
He added that Labor is committed an alternative site at Kings Forest, ‘and we believe that state election should be a referendum on the site’.
‘The Nationals want Cudgen and Kingcliff, while Labor and the community want Kings Forest.
‘The Nationals are bullying the community into the hospital site on the prime agricultural land and using the hospital as a backdoor vehicle to lift the height limits at Kingscliff.
‘They are defying the community,’ Mr Secord said.
Existing site too small
While not directly addressing the government’s choice of the controversial site, Mr Provest did say, ‘the existing Tweed Hospital site is not large enough to provide the additional services needed to support the growing and ageing population in the area’.
‘This is why the NSW Government is investing $582 million to build a new hospital on a larger site that is central to the region, as well as interim upgrade works at the existing hospital to ensure we can continue to meet the increasing demand for health services until we transition to the new hospital,’ Mr Provest said.
According to NSW Health, the Tweed Valley Hospital will include additional inpatient capacity, an expanded emergency department and enhanced surgical and outpatient services, as well as the introduction of new cancer and cardiology services that are not available at the current hospital. This means more people will be able to receive the healthcare they need, closer to home, without having to travel interstate.
For more information on the hospital plans go to: www.tweedvalleyhospital.health.nsw.gov.au