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Byron Shire
May 9, 2021

Will the new Tweed Hospital be the death of nearby flying foxes?

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Grey-headed flying foxes. Photo Justin Welbergen, Wikimedia Commons

The impact of helicopters on a flying fox colony located close to the proposed site for the new Tweed Valley Hospital have been raised by the Evans Head Memorial Aerodrome Committee. They say that this issue is a serious public safety risk if the hospital was to go ahead at this site.

‘The Committee has formed the view that the proposed location for the hospital is not appropriate because of significant risk of helicopter collision with flying foxes from a nearby colony,’ Dr Richard Gates, president of the committee said today.

‘In our view this aviation/flying fox conflict has serious ramifications for the siting of the hospital because of the need for helicopter access for emergencies. If the hospital is to have a helicopter emergency facility at all then the hospital needs to be relocated to a safer area.’

Dr Gates said they were concerned at the fact there was no mention of the flying fox risk at the proposed site in the aviation review.

‘The flight path for the helicopter crosses the buffer zone for an identified flying fox colony not far from the hospital. The helicopter would be flying at low level in this area for more than a kilometre increasing risk of conflict as at airports. Flying foxes don’t tend to get out of the way. They are a known risk to aviation,’ he said.

‘There is not only the risk to the helicopter and its crew and retrieved patient to consider with the current location, but also the community at large should a helicopter be impacted en route to the hospital or on call-out. Risks to the public must be reduced as much as possible and the state government should discard any use of an “affordable risk” model in its decision-making.’

Figure 1 Buffer zone for flying fox camp near proposed TVH 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 derived from information provided by Avipro in its report to the State government about the HLS (see next page Figure 2) It is clear that the hospital is within the buffer and that the northern flight path spelled out in the Avipro proposal traverses approximately 1.5km of the buffer zone. Image supplied.

Colony destruction

The committee also raised the concern that if the position of the colony was not looked at now there would be significant risk that the colony would be ‘be destroyed “in the public interest” so that there was no longer any risk to the helicopters’ in the future.

‘This would be an incredibly dumb solution given the important role flying foxes play in the productive economy of our forests, something the state government already knows,’ said Dr Gates.

‘There are better solutions to the current problem such as a new location for the hospital. Health Infrastructure claims it reviewed 30 potential sites for the hospital. Surely one of these would be better than the current site?

‘The state government needs to make the site evaluation process public so that we can see how the current site was chosen,’ he said.

Independence of aviation consultant

The committee has also questioned the tender process that Health Infrastructure used to select the consultant to write the aviation report, noting that the consultant didn’t declare their input into the State Health Guidelines about Helicopter Landing sites as well as the number of reports previously written for the health department.

‘The consultant may well be the best in the field and that may be why their materials were used by NSW Health, but if this is so why not declare this fact to allay any concern about independence of the assessment process?’ said Dr Gates.

‘Why was the Civil Aviation Safety Authority, which is charged with aviation safety and related standards for Australia, not involved in this critical process as an independent authority?’

Make evaluation process public

The Evans Head Memorial Aerodrome Committee is now calling the state government to make the site evaluation process public.

‘Where was the due diligence for public risk and why was the flying fox matter missed when it figured prominently in other documentation available to the state government and a report referenced by the consultant? Certainly Tweed Council raised its concerns publicly with regard to the impact the proposed hospital at its current location would have on the local biology including the flying fox.’

‘Public access to this process is critical to public confidence in our institutions and the political process for this controversial hospital site,’ concluded Dr Gates.


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17 COMMENTS

  1. Dr Gates and the Evans Head Memorial Aerodrome Committee have raised another valid objection to the flawed site selection for the new Tweed Valley Hospital with the previously ignored flying fox issue. Why is the state government refusing to release the information regarding the site evaluation process ? For such an important infrastructure project, every decision made should be able to withstand forensic scrutiny from the informed public. The Relocate Team have been asking for this information since April 2018, and nearly a year later the secrecy continues. Just what do the experts who made the decision have to hide?

  2. I don’t think most sensible Australians will care about bats being dislocated. It amazes me that there’s any concern at all about these creatures over and above concern for a decent hospital serving people’s needs.

    • Most sensible Australians… really? So we should wipe out a species that is so incredibly important to Australia’s ecosystem because you can’t be bothered doing a little research into these animals… So “most sensible Australians” don’t want any Australian flora or fauna anymore? Just a lot of great big hospitals. Well, we’ll definitely need them if “most sensible Australians” want to wipe out our whole ecosystem. Unbelievable!

  3. At the 15 November 2018 Council meeting our Tweed Greens Mayor Katie Milne and Cr Ron Cooper successfully put up a motion for an investigation into the site selection process. The following is an abbreviated version of the Council resolution. [NOTE: The entire resolution can be found in the Council minutes, pages 6-8, https://www.tweed.nsw.gov.au/ ]

    RESOLVED that Council:

    1. Confirms its opposition to the site selected for the relocation of the Tweed Heads Hospital;

    2. Brings forward urgent legal advice on whether the Preliminary works proposed for the hospital relocation constitute exempt and complying development;

    3. Requests the State Government re-exhibit the stage 1 application due to the inability to access relevant documents through the pathways provided in the public exhibition notices and the incorrect submission address originally listed;

    4. Calls on the State Government to release as a matter of urgency and good faith all documents on the shortlisted hospital sites, and the option of redeveloping on the existing site or into the civic precinct adjacent;

    5. Undertake desktop research sufficient to identify federally scheduled species utilising the proposed hospital site or its immediate environs and to submit a formal referral of the Tweed Valley Hospital DA to the Commonwealth for assessment under the Environment Biodiversity Conservation Act;

    6. Calls on all NSW Parliamentarians for an urgent Parliamentary Inquiry into the proposed Tweed Valley Hospital, or for this matter to be considered by the Parliamentary Public Works Committee. This Inquiry should investigate the governance and planning processes.

    Congratulations to our amazing Greens Mayor Katie Milne on her efforts to keep the hospital north of the river. Greens state candidate Bill Fenelon is fully committed to retaining and expanding the current hospital site at Tweed Heads, in accordance with the North Coast Regional Plan.

    • This is the only reply here with any semblance of intelligence.

      I love your use of actual and factual information to reinforce your point of view.. not doing the Tony Abbott anecdotal observations to disprove a point of view they dont agree with. Take note, denis west.

  4. The endangered snail card didn’t work so now we’ll try the Flying Fox card! Stand by for more rubbishy objections from the greens and labor.

    • Nothing like development to get the old blood flowing through those veins eh? Keen for a Pauline vote?

      Unlike your preferred parties of greed and environmental destruction, at least the greens stand for protecting the natural environment we are decimating through bit piece decisions like this.

      We fully support the new hospital… just not here. Right idea, wrong place. Theres not many worse places to put it environmentally… but I know you nationals voters et al care only about yourselves, not the longevity of local ecology.

      As I said, nothing gets the blood flowing like concrete eyesores.

  5. What a load of rubbish. The Lismore bat colony co-exists almost next door to Lismore base hospital and its helicopter pad. And is the Evans Head Aerodrome Committee going to move their aerodrome because of the bat colony in Evans Head? You’re clutching at straws …

  6. Im sick to death of this bulls!*#. Councillors need to get on with the job your employed to do for our future. Mr Gates is a known antagonist having interfeared with numerous project over the years. As for Ms Milne. Your a woman. You support better treatment of women by men in our community. Why are you giving more brothels licence to open. Why are there are numerous brothels around Tweed area. Your want women to have the respect they deserve then change the environment. Its also not a good look when trying to sell residential development for families when Bay and Warf Streets alone have 5 ore more Sex shops and brothels. What about dealing with that issue????

  7. Anything else to try to stop the hospital it might displace the ants and bugs that live in the ground what about the bees what Wii they come up with Next

  8. I think using the flying fox argument is poor, anyone who lives under a colony of flying foxes would agree and say “piss off” flying foxes!

    The’re flying vermin.

    • I’m sure the Flying Foxes feel the same way about you Steve. Do some research. They are more important to our environment than you are.

  9. Steve, I have lived within 100 metres of a significant, large flying fox colony and watched the sky blacken every sunset. I tried saying “piss off” but the creatures simply ignored me and continued dwelling it their forest home.
    How did YOU manage to move them on ?

  10. The division between The Greens and Labor is clear and yet we have Relocate supporting both.
    The reality is that The Greens still won’t be in a position of power after the next State Election and, if they preference Labor and Labor wins, they will give defacto support to a hospital on environmentally sensitive land at Kings Forest to the benefit of a major developer.
    Relocate has openly supported Leda in the past.

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