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March 27, 2023

Tweed Councillors briefed today on controversial $250m development for Kingscliff

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Proposed site for the $250m health and education development ‘Cudgen Connection’ on State Significant Farmland. Photo Jeff Dawson

The approval of the new Tweed Valley Hospital on State Significant Farmland (SSF) on the Cudgen Plateau near Kingscliff created a bitter split within the local community. At the time local MP Geoff Provest said ‘locating the new hospital on SSF would not “open the floodgates to further development”’. 

The neighbouring property was bought by developer Allan Larkin in 2019 who then began lobbying the state government to include the site in the new hospital development in early 2020. 

‘At that time [of lobbying], Mr Provest repeated his “iron clad guarantee” that no further SSF would be used for development purposes,’ President of the Kingscliff Ratepayers and Progress Association Inc (KRPA), Peter Newton, told The Echo.

An artists impression of the new Cudgen Connection

$250m health precinct

Taking many locals and Tweed Councillors by surprise, last Tuesday, 8 February, a private consortium, Centuria Capital Group and Digital Infratech group (the director of Digital Infratech is Allan Larkin), proposed to build a $250m health and education development, the ‘Cudgen Connection’ project, on the 5.7 hectares site of SSF at 741 Cudgen Road. The property is adjacent to the new $723.3 million Tweed Valley Hospital site. 

Tweed Mayor Chris Cherry (Independent) told The Echo that she had no prior knowledge of the proposal ‘and was blind-sided by the presentation at the Tweed Business Chamber breakfast’. Similarly, councillors Dr Nola Firth (Greens), Meredith Dennis (Independent) and Rhiannon Brinsmead (Liberal) all confirmed that they had no prior knowledge of the proposal. 

Following the announcement of the ‘Cudgen Connection’ project Tweed Nationals MP Geoff Provest responded saying: ‘This is not welcome’.

‘The land currently earmarked for the Cudgen Connection was purchased with the clear and unambiguous knowledge that it was protected from development by legislation and can only be used for agricultural purposes,’ said Mr Newton. 

‘The Kingscliff Ratepayers and Progress Association Inc strongly supports the protections in place and the preservation of the remaining State Significant Farmlands of the Cudgen Plateau. On this one issue alone, the proposal does not pass muster.’

Tweed Shire Mayor Chris Cherry. Photo supplied

Council briefing

The developer has requested a pre-lodgement meeting with council on the proposed development and today (Wednesday, 16 February) Tweed Shire Councillors are receiving a briefing on the development proposal. If the council supports the planning proposal then it would be submitted to the Department of Planning and Environment for consideration. If Council doesn’t support it or doesn’t make a decision within 115 days, the proponent can seek a zoning review by the Planning Panel.

‘We do have a decision-making role, but it may also be bypassed,’ Mayor Cherry told The Echo

The red soils of the Cudgen plateau are too precious to be developed, say opponents of the controversial proposal for a new health and education development next to the Tweed Valley Hospital site. Photo Tweed Shire Council

‘Council’s strategic planning has long protected the SSF lands in the Tweed. All of our strategic planning requires that SSF is protected.

‘To be clear the Tweed Regional Economic Development Strategy never envisaged that the Hospital Precinct would encompass SSF. It was envisaged that the Health Precinct would encompass other Kingscliff lands referred to as Gales land within a 15 minute walking distance to the Regional Hospital site. This land is appropriately available for such purpose and would seem a lot more suitable,’ she explained. 

‘Planning Priorities 5 and 6 of the Tweed Local Strategic Planning Statement (LSPS) speak to the preservation of state significant farmland. Quoting directly from the LSPS, p37. “The new hospital is centrally located in relation to projected population growth and responds to the need for expansion to health and its ancillary sectors to meet the needs of a growing population outside of the significant farmland areas.”

‘This project would be an exciting opportunity for Tweed and would be most welcome at the right site,’ said Ms Cherry.

Tweed Shire Deputy Mayor Reece Byrnes. Photo supplied.

Call for Provest to resign 

Tweed Deputy Mayor Reece Byrnes (Labor) has been joined by his State and Federal colleagues in a joint statement issuing ‘a directive to Tweed Nationals MP Geoff Provest to take responsibility and resign from State Parliament if his government moves to rezone state significant farmland at Cudgen for developers’.

‘For this massive development to go ahead, developers will need to be working closely with the NSW Liberals and Nationals to change the zoning of the state significant farmland adjacent to the new hospital site,’ said Mr Byrnes, Walt Secord, Shadow Minister for the North Coast and Justine Elliot, Federal Member for Richmond in their joint statement. 

‘Labor has always been committed to protecting the Cudgen farmland from development and that hasn’t changed. While we do not know the full details of this $250 million project and it may have some merits, it should not be built on state significant farmland.

‘If this land is rezoned, then Geoff Provest needs to take responsibility and resign from the NSW Parliament because his election in 2019 would have been based on a lie.

‘Everyone wants a new Tweed hospital, but we do not want this to open the door for massive over-development on Cudgen farmlands.’

The fertile red soil of Cudgen. Photo supplied.

Planning Minister supports Provest

Responding to questions from The Echo to the NSW Ministers for Health and Planning, Health Infrastructure said that, ‘The development proposal is for a completely different campus to the Tweed Valley Hospital but naturally aims to take advantage of the proximity to the hospital’. 

‘There are various protections in place to reasonably protect State Significant Farmland,’ said the Health Infrastructure spokesperson. 

They pointed out that the size of the Tweed Valley Hospital site ‘as well its proximity to the TAFE NSW Kingscliff campus, ensures all health, education and supporting developments can be accommodated without encroaching on surrounding areas. This position has been validated through extensive master planning, concept and schematic design development and consultation with staff, clinicians and the community.

‘As part of urban development planning for the area, the Kingscliff Locality Plan identified land north of the hospital site for ample further development which wouldn’t encroach on State Significant Farmland.’

Minister for Planning, Liberal Anthony Roberts told The Echo that, ‘The NSW Government made a commitment to protecting the remaining Cudgen farmland in the Tweed Shire. I support the local member and thank Geoff Provest for his advocacy in ensuring this land is protected for the Tweed Shire community’.

No response was received from NSW Minister for Agriculture, National Party member Dugald Saunders. 

The site of the new Tweed Valley Hospital opposite Kingscliff TAFE on Cudgen Road. Photo Google Maps

Development pressure

‘It is very clear that the Tweed is likely to be facing significant development in the next few years and to maintain the character of our unique and beautiful region development will need to be strategic and carefully take into account our planning zones,’ said Cr Firth. 

‘These zones have been put in place following extensive community consultation and they address the particular needs of our community. In this case the land is also State Significant Farmland which is increasingly important for our food security and our local economy.’

Both Councillors Dennis and Brinsmead stated that they do not support any further development of SSF. 

‘The land is SSF and zoned RU1 so any development is not permissible,’ pointed out Cr Dennis. 

‘It’s a very simple equation for our members and the community,’ said Mr Newton. ‘The proposal clearly does not meet the legislative requirements for the use of protected, State Significant Farmland. Commitments have been given to protect the remaining farmland and need to be honoured. Our State Member is clearly honouring his election “iron-clad guarantee” and it is now up to his senior colleagues in the State Ministry to step up and do the same.’

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  1. What I can’t see is, if “the fertile red soil of Cudgen” are so precious to the nation, why are they being wasted on growing sugar cane ?
    After all, cane is the most marginal crop, and some would contend as dangerous as tobacco, and so unpopular the government has to subsidise the industry.
    If these ‘farmers’ can’t find anything more productive to pursue there , then a health hub for the area seems hugely more beneficial.
    Cheers, G”)


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