Both the Green and Labor candidates for the state seat of Tweed have spoken out about the potential danger to flying foxes near the government’s proposed new Tweed Hospital site after the issue was raised in Echonetdaily on Friday.
Dr Richard Gates, president of the Evans Head Memorial Aerodrome Committee, last week highlighted the serious aviation hazard posed by the bat colony adjacent to the proposed Tweed Valley Hospital at Cudgen.
Greens candidate, Bill Fenelon said the Kingscliff flying-fox camp was ‘dangerously close’ (less than a kilometre) to the proposed hospital’s helipad, ‘creating an unacceptable aviation and public safety hazard’.
‘The fact that the state government has not factored this serious risk into their assessment process is reprehensible,’ he said.
Labor candidate Craig Elliot said that ‘ignoring important information such as risks associated with flight corridors shows that [sitting National Party member] Geoff Provest is not listening and is not working in the community’s best interest’.
Oversight or incompetence?
Mr Fenelon said ‘the real possibility of a flying fox colliding with a helicopter is well known, and not only poses a danger to the aircraft but also the crew, the patients and the broader community’.
‘The Tweed Heads Hospital and the Gold Coast Airport are around 10km away from the Kingscliff flying-fox camp, and they have both been assessed for associated strike risks. So why not the proposed Cudgen Hospital? Is this a sloppy oversight or reckless incompetence?
‘Why take such a major risk by building a hospital within a flying-fox buffer zone? The answer is not to relocate the flying foxes but to relocate the hospital. The Tweed Flying Fox Camp Management Plan asserts that relocating flying foxes to another site is highly problematic.’
‘The risks, complexities and expenses, on top of other serious and well-documented environmental concerns around the Cudgen Hospital site, are a clear indication that this proposal is gravely flawed, deeply unpopular and should be abandoned.
‘Flying-foxes are Australia’s only long-distance pollinators, making them essential to the persistence of natural areas. Long-distance pollination and seed dispersal by flying-foxes are critical to our sustainable orchard species and hardwood production. These keystone species should not be put at risk of harm or death from a collision with helicopters,’ he said.
Crisis to crisis
Mr Elliot, meanwhile, said the ‘entire hospital proposal lurches from crisis to crisis and with no true community consultation undertaken it’s now a fact that residents of the Tweed have no faith in Geoff Provest and the National Party’.
‘With voting for the state election commencing with pre-polling in around eight weeks, it’s clear that only a Labor state government can protect the farmland at Cudgen, save Kingscliff from Gold Coast style over-development, and importantly deliver the best health and hospital outcomes for all Tweed residents on time and on budget,’ he said.
But Mr Fenelon said he supported the new Tweed hospital being built on the current site, not the Kings Forest location Labor endorses.
‘I fully support the Tweed Greens Mayor Katie Milne and the NSW Greens MLC Dawn Walker, who want the hospital to remain north of the river, with the current Tweed Hospital site as the preferred option, which has a significantly lower risk of a serious flying-fox aviation incident.
‘It beggars belief that the current Tweed Heads Hospital site has been dismissed as a viable option, despite the North Coast Regional Plan’s intent that it would be retained and expanded if required,’ Mr Fenelon said.