The NSW State government is trumpeting the height of the controversial new Tweed Valey Hospital but the community remains concerned over promises of free parking, protection of State Significant Farmland (SSF) and roads and traffic.
‘The new seven-storey $723.3 million Tweed Valley Hospital development has reached a major milestone, hitting its highest point of construction,’ says the state government in a recent press release.
‘Today’s “topping out” ceremony is a significant milestone for this incredible new health facility which will double capacity of the existing hospital to better meet the current and future healthcare needs of this community which has grown by 6,000 people since this project was first announced,’ Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional NSW Paul Toole said.
State Significant Farmland
However, there are still concerns over the long-term impacts on the local community and the current threat to protected SSF.
Peter Newton, President of the Kingscliff Ratepayers and Progress Association Inc (KRPA) points out that the location of the hospital site on SSF zoned farmland remains a concern.
‘The Association has always recognised and supported the provision of a new hospital as much needed for the Shire and surrounds. We are grateful for this significant investment in health infrastructure by the State government,’ he told The Echo.
‘The location of such a major piece of infrastructure (basically the equivalent of a small town) above Kingscliff itself, on legislatively protected, prime agricultural land in a limited ‘footprint’, was always the issue for our members and community, not the hospital.
‘Our major focus remains protection of remaining state significant farmland and mitigating the impact of the hospital on the infrastructure of our beautiful part of the world, particularly roads, traffic and parking.
Death by a thousand dollar signs
Ten days before the Tweed Valley Hospital site was re-zoned for the hospital to be built there developer Alan Larkin bought the adjoining site for more than $3.5m over its rural value. That site is zoned as SSF and is therefore not supposed to be developed, this was confirmed by local MP Geof Provest in 2019 when speaking to the Sydney Morning Herlad. However, in February 2022 a private consortium proposed to build ‘Cudgen Connection’ a ‘$250m health and education development on farmland next to the new Tweed Valley Hospital in Cudgen’.
Local MP Geoff Provest was quick to confirm that ‘We committed to protect the remaining Cudgen farmland and that is what we are doing’. However, since that time the developers have argued that the zoning as SSF is ‘incorrect’ and have been building a case to rezoned the site for development.
‘We recognise and welcome that our State Member, Mr Provest continues to state categorically that there will be no further development of the State Significant Farmland at Cudgen. This support is particularly important to our community, given the current attempt by the so-called ‘Cudgen Connection’ to develop their parcel of SSF adjoining the new hospital,’ said KRPA President Mr Newton.
‘We have received welcome advice from the Minister for Agriculture and Western Sydney, Dugald Saunders, who is seeking a review of protected agricultural land in order to strengthen the protections. The Association still waits on a response from the Planning Minister, Anthony Roberts, who to this point, has remained concerningly silent on this matter.’
Free parking a maybe
A new $50 million multi-storey car park will also be delivered as part of the project, providing staff, patients and visitors with access to over 1,200 car park spaces at the new hospital campus when complete.
Mr Provest historically stated that parking at the new TVH would be free.
‘Promises regarding the provision of free parking and also the ongoing operation of the current Tweed Hospital are still to be met and we note the Deputy Premier, Paul Toole, makes no mention of these in his statement. The community expects and deserves no less than to have these election commitments honoured,’ said Mr Newton.
Speaking to the office of the Minister for Regional Health, Bronnie Taylor, a spokesperson told The Echo that ‘a range of offers are being considered at the moment’ in relation to car parking at the new TVH.
They would not answer the question ‘is paid parking being considered?’ However, it is understood that there is a consideration of adopting fees in accordance with the current parking fee schedule at Lismore Base Hospital carpark, though all options remain on the table.
Provest stands firm
MP Provest has come out and confirmed to the communityhis election promise f=of free parking at the new TVH.
‘It was a commitment made at the last election that carparking would be free and I have not moved from that commitment. At the time it was also publicly stated by the then Deputy Premier John Barilaro,’ he told The Echo.
‘In addition to the world-class health facility, construction for the hospital has provided a boost to the local economy, supporting hundreds of jobs since work began.
‘As the project moves into the internal fit-out stage, work is ramping up with around 400 people on-site each day. Importantly, many of the workers contributing to this project are from the local community,’ Mr Provest said.
According to the health department, the hospital will include: More than 400 overnight and day-only beds to address future demand for health services; Expanded emergency department with 42 treatment spaces; Expanded outpatient services with more clinics; 12 operating theatres, an increase of five from the existing Tweed Hospital; New interventional cardiology service; New radiotherapy service as part of integrated cancer care, including a PET-CT suite; Outdoor green spaces; Campus roads and car park.