Minister labels Kings Forest decision as 'bizarre'
NSW HEALTH Minister Brad Hazzard has labelled Labor's decision to back Kings Forest for the site of the new Tweed Valley Hospital as 'bizarre' and politically questionable.
Mr Hazzard was responding to a decision by Opposition leader Luke Foley to back Kings Forest as the site for the new hospital, despite the selection process not yet being finalised by NSW Health Infrastructure.
Mr Foley announced his decision during his Budget response speech in the NSW Parliament yesterday, and flew to the Tweed today to hold a press conference at Kings Forest.
Mr Foley said his decision would protect the State Significant Farmland at Cudgen and end any possible delay in building the hospital.
"The Health Minister and the Member for Tweed have delayed the new Tweed hospital for too long," Mr Foley said.
"I've looked at all four sites, you have two that are on prime agricultural land. I have spoken to farmers and they want to stay farming their land. We shouldn't chew up our North Coast farmland for other forms of development when there are good alternatives available.
"It is time for a decision on a final location. Therefore, if elected, Labor will build a new Tweed Hospital at Kings Forest - protecting our State Significant Farmland at Cudgen. We reject the National Party's push to overdevelop Kingscliff."
The announcement comes after a community forum hosted by the Tweed Daily News on Monday night revealed NSW Health Infrastructure had short-listed three alternative hospital sites following outrage over a decision to put the hospital on SSF at Cudgen.
The three alternative sites include Kings Forest, Chinderah and a property on Tweed Coast Road.
But Mr Foley said he had no faith in the Health Infrastructure process.
"I don't have any confidence in it, frankly," Mr Foley said.
"You had the Deputy Premier and Leader of the Nationals (John Barilaro) standing up in parliament in May and saying his government had chosen the Cudgen site.
"Well, we as the alternative government, are also entitled to have our say."
But Health Minister Brad Hazzard said he was "stunned" by Mr Foley's stance, labelling it a "bizarre" decision.
"It is quite bizarre that in the middle of a budget speech, the Labor leader would pluck a site and give no criteria for that. How can you choose a site by plucking it (out of thin air)?" Mr Hazzard said.
"It has got to be done with all the appropriate advice from the government agency that is invested to do that task. The Tweed community know there is an independent process going on, with an independent section of the health department. It is not a political decision, it is a decision about what is in the best interests of the community."
Mr Hazzard said it appeared Labor was attempting to capitalise on the division in the community over the site.
"At its most superficial, it would seem like there is some advantage for them politically to choose a site. I honestly don't understand why they would do that. It shows if they get into government they won't apply openness and transparency and independent decision-making processes," he said.
"This is not what should be happening here. This is about all of us together, trying to choose through an appropriately transparent process, based on all the criteria that the independent Health Infastructure agency is going to apply, what is the best site for the hopsital that is going to last us probably for the next 60 to 70 years."
Mr Foley dismissed allegations made in parliament on Thursday that Labor was favouring developers who had donated to the party, saying the party had not accepted donations from developers since 2010.
A representative for Leda Holdings, the developer behind Kings Forest, declined to comment. The spokesman said the company had signed a deed of confidentiality over the process after Kings Forest had been shortlisted as an alternative site