Hayley and James Paddon (left) and other Cudgen farmers believe the new Tweed hospital should be built elsewhere.
Hayley and James Paddon (left) and other Cudgen farmers believe the new Tweed hospital should be built elsewhere.

Labor demands list of alternative hospital sites

LABOR is demanding the NSW Government release the full list of sites considered for the new Tweed hospital, claiming the selection has been surrounded by a "cloak of secrecy”.

The State Government on April 4 announced the new $534 million Tweed Valley Hospital would be built on a 23ha parcel of land, opposite the North Coast TAFE on Cudgen Road at the Kingscliff-Cudgen boundary.

But the decision to build the hospital on the rich volcanic soils of the Cudgen plateau has been met with outrage by farmers who believe the hospital should be built elsewhere.

A Facebook page opposing the decision already has more than 3000 members, as does a petition against the site circulating the area.

Federal Member of Parliment for the seat of Richmond, Justine Elliot outside Tweed Heads Hospital.
Federal MP for the seat of Richmond, Justine Elliot outside the existing Tweed Hospital. Mrs Elliot is calling for improved transparency around the new hospital site. Scott Powick

In a joint statement issued yesterday, Federal MP for Richmond Justine Elliot, NSW Opposition Health spokesperson Walt Secord and Tweed Deputy Mayor Reece Byrnes - all Labor Party representatives for the area - called on the NSW Government to release the full list of sites investigated by NSW Health Infrastructure for the new hospital.

The statement comes after a community meeting last week saw more than 200 residents demand answers on the choice of hospital site despite it being mapped as State Significant Farmland (SSF) back in 2005.*

Federal MP Justine Elliot said the State Government had "dropped” the decision on residents and was now "ignoring their concerns”.

"Tweed MP Geoff Provest has ignored the local community, he was elected to listen and then act,” Mrs Elliot said.

"The community has a right to be involved in the decision process.”

NSW State Health Minister Brad Hazzard with State Member Geoff Provest inspect the site of the new Tweed River Hospital at Kingscliff.
NSW State Health Minister Brad Hazzard with State Member Geoff Provest inspect the site of the new Tweed Valley Hospital at Kingscliff. Scott Powick

Shadow Minister for the North Coast and Shadow Health spokesperson Walt Secord said his office had been "inundated” with e-mails about the lack of transparency surrounding the hospital announcement.

"Tweed Hospital is under enormous pressure and better hospital services are needed, but few people were consulted,” he said.

Cr Byrnes said the community had been kept in the dark around the hospital decision.

"Sadly, there is a cloak of secrecy surrounding the Tweed Hospital decision,” Cr Byrnes said.

"The community wants better health services, but they have to be properly consulted.”

Tweed MP Geoff Provest said on his Facebook page today that information on the alternative sites would be released "once the requested debriefs” had been completed.

"Expression of interest proponents were notified of the selected site on the day of the government announcement and have been offered debriefs,” he said.

Mr Provest said the debriefs would "provide an overview of the areas in which sites were investigated and the key issues and considerations applicable to each area”.

* The Tweed Daily News originally published the land as being declared SSF in 2002, but while the project was first launched in 2002, the final recommendations of the Northern Rivers Farmland Protection Project, which outlines reasons for protecting the soil at Cudgen and elsewhere in the Northern Rivers, was published in February 2005.

The parcel of land at Kingscliff where the new Tweed Valley Hospital will be built.
The parcel of land at Kingscliff where the new Tweed Valley Hospital will be built. Contributed by NSW Health