The contentious siting of the future Tweed Valley Hospital continues to raise questions, this time from Greens MP and health spokesperson Dawn Walker, who raised the issue in state parliament last week.
The questions come amid tit-for-tat allegations of favours for mates over the hospital site from local Nats and ALP representatives Geoff Provest and Justine Elliot.
During a sitting of the upper house last Thursday, Ms Walker questioned the NSW Government over their plans to compulsorily acquire land at Cudgen for the new hospital.
Primary industries minister Niall Blair told parliament that, ‘The hospital location on the far north-eastern tip of the agricultural area will not fragment the Cudgen Plateau and should limit the flow-on impacts to other state-significant farmland.’
Failing to listen
But Ms Walker said ‘the Liberal-National government is failing to listen to regional communities like Tweed.
‘They are pushing ahead, wasting millions of taxpayers’ dollars purchasing private land that the community wants to retain for agriculture, when they should be investing in re-developing the existing hospital site at Tweed Heads’ Ms Walker said.
‘Of the 23 hectares to be acquired, the government has admitted that approximately 70 per cent is agricultural land, 20 per cent is Nature Reserve and 10 per cent is residential.
‘It’s alarming that 90 per cent of this acquired land is currently being used for growing food and protecting wildlife, including endangered species like the wallum sedge frog, Mitchell’s rainforest snail, southern black-throated finch, grey-headed flying fox and koalas.
‘It should not be concreted over simply because we have a short-sighted government that doesn’t value state-significant farmland or nature.
‘I have grave concerns that locating the new hospital at Cudgen is the thin edge of the wedge and will result in the massive overdevelopment of Kingscliff and an economic downturn in Tweed Heads, which should remain as our regional health precinct.
‘If this project proceeds, the National Party will forever be remembered as the party who sold-out local farmers and pushed for intense development on our food producing land’ Ms Walker said.
Developer donations queried
Meanwhile a further war of words has broken out between state Tweed MP Geoff Provest (Nationals) and federal Richmond MP Justine Elliot (Labor) over claims of favours for party donors.
In a statement released last week, Mr Provest said, ‘The frequency of the Labor Party’s misleading claims regarding development and planning processes is far from coincidental.
‘We are fully aware of the reasons why the Labor Party is pushing the Kings Forest site and frankly, this is why the NSW Labor government was voted out in the first place.
‘Labor has a clear agenda to delay construction of a new hospital for the Tweed, putting the interests of a major ALP donor ahead of those of local residents of the Tweed,’ Mr Provest siad.
While he did not name the identity of the claimed donor, the developer of Kings Forest, Leda Holdings, was named on a list of top 20 donors to Australian political parties in The Guardian in 2015.
The article does not mention which party or parties Leda donated money to, however Ms Elliot responded, ‘I have never received a donation from Leda. These outrageous lies by Geoff Provest are demonstrably untrue and baseless.
‘It was NSW Labor that banned developers from making political donations in 2010.
‘Nationals MP Geoff Provest has shot himself in the foot by attacking Labor on 11-year-old donations after it was revealed that the Liberals in the same year, in 2007, received $25,000 from the same donor.
‘It was under the current NSW Liberal Nationals government period that ICAC Operation Spicer identified $666,992 in illegal donations to NSW Liberal Party MPs.
‘The recent Wagga Wagga state byelection was caused by the NSW Liberal MP Daryl Maguire’s admission to ICAC that he sought a dividend or bribe from a property developer.
Donor running consultations
‘But even more embarrassing is that Mr Provest must explain why the Berejiklian Government has a political donor running the current consultation process for the proposed Tweed Valley Hospital.
‘Peter Lawless and his company the Calcutta Group – who claims to be working for Health Infrastructure – was brought in by the Berejiklian Government to help convince the community to accept the Cudgen site handpicked by the Nationals.
‘Donation disclosures reveal Peter Lawless donated $1,000 to the then Liberal treasurer Andrew Constance during the 2015 NSW state election campaign,’ Ms Elliot said.