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October 26, 2021

Greens, Labor speak up over bat colony near hospital site

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Figure 1 Buffer zone for flying fox camp near proposed Tweed Valley hospital site including proposed approximate flight path for helicopters provided by AVIPro, The orange star shows the approximate position of the proposed hospital site and the dotted white circle the identified flying fox camp 1km buffer. The orange arrow shows the approximate flight path of the helicopters to the north of the hospital site Image supplied.

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 for the state seat of Tweed, Bill Fenelon. Photo supplied.

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.

Craig Elliot, ALP candidate for the seat of Tweed at the 2019 state election. Photo supplied

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.

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  1. I wholeheartedly support Bill Fenelon and the Greens as they have an exemplary track record of standing up for our environment and can be trusted to deliver sensible and transparent policies that support and protect the safety of the Tweed community, the environment and our exquisite native species like the flying fox. It’s so obvious that the hospital should remain at the Tweed, and that water mining should be banned!

  2. I don’t have any faith in any of the political parties whatsoever when it comes to any sort of location in the northern region of the Tweed Shire due to the poor infrastructure that no party has mentioned to address so far being:
    • Flooding of the M1 motorway during the last major storm event;
    • Flooding of Chinderah Bay Drive and surrounding the overpass of the M1 motorway round-a-bout leading into the ingress of Tweed Coast Road;
    • Flooding of Waugh Street from Chinderah Bay drive to the ingress to M1 motorway and Phillip Street and Wommin Bay Road [see Google Map: https://www.google.com/maps/d/edit?vpsrc=6&ctz=-660&abauth=e552812%3A8CgrRErYtY7T9wvLOuh25EeFxmM&vps=2&jsv=375b&sll=-28.101825%2C153.486155&sspn=0.26361%2C0.15951&ei=tAuhTvGDCcHUmAWZiuX5Cw&num=10&mid=15fP5-uSw8jigtxnVc-lDgEQJz1FQ_r43&ll=-28.259044944998983%2C153.56318761500245&z=15%5D.
    Where is the money to improve the road height and levee for the M1 motorway and associated routes to the proposed hospital site and will such procedure of better two-lane divided Tweed Coast Road and including Cudgen Road be in place for the completion of the Tweed Valley Hospital?
    If it isn’t, it’s the same situation as the Badgerys Creek infrastructure in that you would expect a direct rail link into the Sydney CBD prior to the airport completion date as this would be the highest priority to freight via rail the complete airport infrastructure and the cost to the tax payer would be minimal, let-alone traffic delays as if you live anywhere near the road links to the proposed hospital, you will experience delays due to heavy equipment and goods and chattels for the creation of this hospital prior to 2022… that’s three years away and if, completed on time?
    Why doesn’t the N.S.W. State Government consider the best solution where the largest population density is in the Tweed and Coolangatta area to purchase the land from the Tweed Heads Bowling Club Car Park [which is notorious for parking of hospital staff and visitors] so as to complete a vertical building or anywhere that allows the height limit for the Tweed Heads CBD and once completed refurbish the old Tweed Hospital and allow a major arch for both building sites crossing the roadway of Powell Street.
    Now who would be in favour of this infrastructure? Can’t wait for the elections to question all of the political parties over the ever increasing possibility of extreme weather conditions and if the representative of the party has considered what infrastructure to put in place before the completion of the proposed hospital site which really is a farcical in comparison to the locality of where the greatest population density is at Tweed Heads and not flood prone?

  3. Jumping in before all the anti Flying Fox group does. Flying Foxes are far more important to our environment than you are. Moving the hospital location is far better for us than destroying flying foxes. If we destroy our natural flora and fauna we destroy ourselves and it won’t matter how many hospitals we have then.

  4. Who is Bill Fenelon? Never heard of him. What does he know about the Hospital?
    Dr Richard Gates flies in and goes into bat for the people.

  5. Labor’s claim that they are the only party that can protect Kingscliff from Gold Coast style development is an obvious attempt at political point scoring at the expense of community. The National Party has sold us out but the Labor isn’t doing much better.

    Their proposal to construct the Tweed Valley Hospital in Kings Forest will not save Kingscliff from Gold Coast style development. It will establish high rise south of the river and will set a precedent that will invite the expansion of high rise into the coastal strip.

    State significant farmland is located adjacent to the proposed Kings Forest hospital site. Auxiliary services and higher density housing that the hospital will attract will also in time see Gold Coast sprawl take over. The Labor Party originally approved Kings Forest. As a consequence it is inevitable that the Tweed Coast Road will be expanded to four lanes and Gold Coast style traffic lighting will take over.

    To the horror of our Greens Mayor Katie Milne, Labor Councillor Reece Burnes recently voted with Liberal Councillor James Owen and conservative National Party-aligned Councillors Polglase and Allsop to support increased building heights from 3 story to 10 story at Cobaki. The Labor Party also voted with the conservatives on water mining and refuses to rule out the Adani coal mine.

    The public is being fooled into thinking there is a marked difference between the Labor Party and the Liberal National Party. They pass the sceptre of power back and forth between each other whilst at the same time moving the agenda of the corporations that provide the massive donations that feed them.

    With Cobaki, Kings Forest, Area E at Bilambil, Dunloe at Pottsville and other infill sites identified in the Tweed Urban Land Use Strategy, there is already enough future housing development ticked off and locked in to keep the building industry going for another 30 years in the Tweed.

    We need a party in power that will manage this growth in the best interests of the community, not in the best interests of itself or the corporations and individuals that feed it. That party is the Greens and their state candidate is Bill Fenelon.

  6. Lismore airport has an average of 6 bird/bat strikes per 10,000 aircraft movements. Let’s say the hospital has 1000 movements per year. That is less than one bird/bat strike per year.

    • This morning ABC News reported a drone coming close to the blades of a helicopter and putting it in danger of crashing on the Sunshine Coast. A simple google search revealed masses of evidence regarding dangers of flying objects, including drones, bringing down helicopters.

      For example, see the following link detailing how helicopter rescuers had to wait for a drone to leave the skies above a boat accident before an injured fisherman could be winched to safety on the Gold Coast: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-10-03/drone-delays-rescue-on-gold-coast-seaway/10333884

      Any bird/bat strike hitting helicopter blades is one too many.

  7. In reply to Roger Graf.The road onto the Barny,s Point bridge is designed to flood.This is due to ALL water in the Tweed River Must flow under the bridge to get to the sea. There is no other outlet.
    Raise the road 2 metres and Chinderah water level raises 2 meters.
    The only way would be to reconstruct the road and use culverts under the road.A very exspensive exercise and what a traffic problem the work would have

  8. A few points worth raising from someone who lives very close to the camp.

    This camp was a seasonal camp (present only 6 months of the year). This summer for the first time the camp has stayed on and shifted 100 meters closer to town (they usually leave for the summer). They are now in the trees at the back of St Anthony’s. That’s not to say that they won’t move back into the normal winter location.

    For the most part they fly out only at Dusk and return at Dawn follow the creek bed before dispersing. I doubt any sort of risk is posed to any aircraft at all other times of the day.

    Tweed Shire Council personnel have successfully moved on an entire colony by deploying some simple vegetation management techniques. They did this at Pottsville along the river. That is, they trim back (not remove) the paperbark tree (Melaleuca) to a height that is no longer desirable for the bats to camp in.

    For all those who think this has always been natural Bat habitat and shouldn’t be touched. My elderly neighbor informs me that when they first purchased in the area that was all Tomato growing fields.


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