Despite significant local opposition to the Tweed Valley Hospital being built on top of State Significant Farmland (SSF) in Cudgen, near Kingscliff, the NSW Liberal-National government pushed ahead and the first concrete has now been poured on the site.
However, the community remains ‘seriously concerned’ over the risks to the remaining SSF that surrounds the site, the future of free parking for staff and visitors, and the future of the existing Tweed Hospital according to Peter Newton, president of the Kingscliff Ratepayers and Progress Association Inc (KRPA).
‘The Association welcomes progress on the hospital development for the benefit of the Shire,’ Mr Newton told The Echo.
‘The chosen location was always the issue for the community, not the need for a new hospital in the shire, which is something the community always supported.
Loss of farmland
‘The community remains deeply concerned over the future of the remaining state significant farmland. At no point in the [recent] media conference’s was the matter of protecting the remaining farmland raised – despite Mr Provest’s [Nationals MP for Tweed] previous ‘iron-clad guarantee’ election commitment and his subsequent statements reaffirming this protection.’
Mr Newton sites the moves from both Brisbane developer IRBS to bring their land adjacent SSF into a future stage of the hospital development and the ‘recent marketing of protected, state significant farmland at 738 Cudgen road as having ‘development potential… opposite the Tweed Valley Hospital’.
These are both a ‘significant cause for concern for the community that this protected [SSF] farmland will soon be lost,’ said Mr Newton.
As anyone who has ever had to pay for hospital parking knows, it can add a significant cost to a visit for treatment or for visiting ill friends and family. Mr Newton told The Echo that the Health Minister had provided very ambiguous responses to their seeking further confirmation of free parking at the future hospital.
Maintaining Tweed Hospital
Mr Newton said that while the provision of free parking for staff and visitors at the new hospital and also the ongoing operation of the existing Tweed Hospital (including emergency services) were clear election commitments of Mr Provest KRPA ‘were deeply concerned about the State Government honouring their free parking and Tweed Hospital commitments, despite Mr Provest’s election promises’.
KRPA have written to Mr Provest once again seeking confirmation on all three points of protecting SSF, free parking and a continuation of the existing Tweed Hospital, including emergency services. They have asked Mr Provest to ‘to take his election promises… up with the respective ministers and obtain their “ironclad guarantees” that these commitments will indeed be honoured.’
Responding to The Echo’s questions over these issues Mr Provest said, ‘Thank you for your email asking the same questions that have been asked and answered many times before. It doesn’t matter how many times you print misleading claims fed to you by the opportunistic federal Labor MP, they still are not true.
‘The real story is that this $673 million project is the largest ever investment in health infrastructure in the Tweed/Byron area. $72 million is being spent this year alone, much of it to pay hundreds of local tradies who are already working on site,’ said Mr Provest.
‘The development will have a hugely positive impact on the health of the community, including treating on site more than 5,000 patients a year who until now have had to travel away from the area for specialist treatment.
‘Why not be positive for a change and print that? It is accurate after all.’