Rhonda McCulloch, Kingscliff
Sounds familiar? About 30 years ago the residents of Fingal Head worked and campaigned tirelessly to keep high-rise over development out of Fingal – against all odds they were successful and their slogan ‘Keep Fingal Special’ is why we can still enjoy Fingal Head in its beautiful and pristine condition. Now Kingscliff residents have a similar battle on their hands.
We all understand we need a larger hospital for the Tweed, that’s a given. The NSW Government has had a Masterplan in place to expand the current Tweed Hospital on its existing site for several years. Many residents around the Tweed Hospital moved there to be close to the hospital. The recent decision to forego these expansion plans smacks of sheer arrogance and disdain for our communities. It seems like last-minute pre-election urgency to drop a huge multi-storey piece of new hospital infrastructure and associated buildings on a new site right between the residents of the village of Cudgen and Kingscliff, and on, and in between State Significant Farmland (SSF).
Besides the big issues of how this site selection will adversely impact upon our communities once it is finally completed there are so many contradictions in the NSW government’s justifications as to why this site was chosen. Here’s just a couple:
- They state that this is the only site that was put forward during the tender process that meets their criteria. As we now know they compulsorily acquired the site. If they had that power to begin with it seems that they had just about the whole of the Shire to choose from. Yet they have pushed on and compulsorily acquired land that is not only zoned as SSF but will also impose this huge project on residents living close by. In doing so, create an overloaded road network and parking for residents, students and visitors to access Kingscliff town centre, our High School and TAFE.
- They state that the Cudgen Site is the only one put forward above the flood levels. The current Tweed Heads District Hospital was built 100 or so metres from the Tweed River on land that was extensively filled in the 1970’s. I don’t recall in my 40 years living in this area this hospital needing to be evacuated due to river flooding.
So, the NSW government currently has a major hospital (The Tweed) on previously flood prone land, they want to build a new one on a constrained site that can’t be accessed during floods unless major roadworks are undertaken at the expense of who? They rejected and dismissed very large parcels of land right next to the Motorway at Chinderah due to flooding issues. Areas that were recommended by Council’s own planning consultants as possible sites for a future Hospital and Health/Educational precinct.
History has shown that where there is a will there is a way. It seems that the current government’s will is the Cudgen Site. Our community has protested strongly and sensibly against this site and know there are other ways to achieve our new hospital for the Tweed. This government has disregarded our community’s will, and the Council’s planning recommendations.
The Cudgen site is a rare piece of protected and productive farmland in between two beautiful established coastal villages. These villages, farms and their farm stalls are enjoyed by many who live in the Tweed and our thousands of visitors who come here because Kingscliff, Cudgen and surrounds are unique and special. It just doesn’t stack up to select this site when there are other options available for a state-of-the-art hospital precinct.
Finally, the pro-Cudgen site group seem to have a fixation on a couple of points. One is that the Cudgen site had little farming value. A huge part of this whole debate is about the fact that the Cudgen site had proven farming value, that’s why it is zoned as SSF. At the time it was acquired it was being leased to young local farmers who chose to make a living from it, provide jobs and great local produce to our community and beyond.
The other is the argument that jobs and needed medical facilities will be lost if the Cudgen site is not taken up. This is also a furphy – wherever our hospital is placed jobs will still be created as will the services the hospital will provide.
When you vote on the 23rd March remember why we chose to live here. Please vote for people who understand why we chose to live here. The big planning decisions that affect our communities should always be under our control, not arrogant politicians who refuse to listen to the people they are elected to represent.