Hos­pi­tals and farm­ers don’t mix...

Com­mu­nity calls for re­think on hos­pi­tal site

Tweed Daily News - - NEWS - Nikki Todd nikki.todd@tweed­dai­lynews.com.au

RES­I­DENTS are call­ing on the NSW Govern­ment to find an al­ter­na­tive site for the pro­posed Tweed Val­ley Hos­pi­tal, ques­tion­ing a de­ci­sion to build the new fa­cil­ity on prime agri­cul­tural land.

More than 200 res­i­dents at­tended a packed com­mu­nity meet­ing at Cud­gen Leagues Club on Tues­day night, de­mand­ing an­swers as to why the govern­ment had cho­sen to ig­nore its own dec­la­ra­tion of the land as state sig­nif­i­cant in or­der to build the new hos­pi­tal.

A show of hands showed unan­i­mous sup­port for a call by farm­ers to find an al­ter­na­tive site.

NSW Health Min­is­ter Brad Haz­zard vis­ited the Tweed last Wed­nes­day to an­nounce the new

$534 mil­lion Tweed Val­ley Hos­pi­tal would be built on an el­e­vated, 23ha piece of prime agri­cul­tural land across the road from North Coast Tafe.

The land, on the Kingscliff-cud­gen bound­ary, is cur­rently used to farm sweet pota­toes – the main crop of the Cud­gen re­gion that is renowned for its deep-red, fer­tile vol­canic soil.

The meet­ing was or­gan­ised by long-time Cud­gen farm­ers James and Hay­ley Pad­don, whose fam­ily has farmed the re­gion for gen­er­a­tions.

Mrs Pad­don said she did not un­der­stand why the site had been cho­sen above 29 oth­ers iden­ti­fied by NSW Health In­fra­struc­ture as part of an ex­pres­sion of in­ter­est cam­paign.

“I am here as a farmer’s wife and also as a per­son who has lived in Kingscliff all my life,” Mrs Pad­don said.

❝This land should be pro­tected for­ever. — For­mer mayor Max Boyd

“The Pad­don fam­ily has had a long his­tory of fight­ing devel­op­ment in Cud­gen. I’m all for this hos­pi­tal, our area needs this hos­pi­tal ... but if this goes through, for the farm­ers in this area ... this will be very, very dif­fi­cult.”

The meet­ing was also at­tended by for­mer Tweed mayor Max Boyd, who worked hard over sev­eral years to have the Cud­gen Plateau clas­si­fied as land of state sig­nif­i­cance in 2002, urged the com­mu­nity to keep up the pres­sure on the govern­ment.

“This land should be pro­tected for­ever,” Mr Boyd said to loud ap­plause.

“The sad part is gov­ern­ments change and times change and politi­cians have far too much in­flu­ence over where these things are put in place.

“I am 110 per cent be­hind the farm­ers who want to pro­tect this land. It is the time for not only the farm­ers and the peo­ple at large who de­pend upon farm­ers for their green prod­ucts, this is the time to get be­hind them as hard and as fast as you pos­si­bly can. Keep up the pres­sure.”

Tweed Mayor Katie Milne, who at­tended the meet­ing along with fel­low coun­cil­lors Ron Cooper, War­ren Pol­glase and Pryce All­sop, said the coun­cil had not been con­sulted over the is­sue.

“It was all very hush-hush,” Cr Milne said.

“This is a re­ally huge is­sue. The (State Govern­ment) must jus­tify to you guys why, of all the places in the shire, it had to be this land. They need to jus­tify their po­si­tion.”

Cr Milne said she would be propos­ing a mo­tion at the next coun­cil meet­ing to call for more an­swers from the State Govern­ment.

Les­ley Steel (nee Julius), whose fam­ily are farm­ing pi­o­neers of Cud­gen, said this was not the first time the com­mu­nity had been forced to pro­tect the pre­cious agri­cul­tural land, with pres­sure to re­zone the area for devel­op­ment on­go­ing since the 1980s.

A pe­ti­tion call­ing for the preser­va­tion of Cud­gen farmland has al­ready at­tracted more than 2000 sig­na­tures.

OF ALL the land in the shire, why does the pro­posed new hos­pi­tal have to be on the “state sig­nif­i­cant farmland” of the Cud­gen Plateau?

That’s the $500 mil­lion ques­tion ev­ery­one is ask­ing.

This is not just any old bit of ru­ral land. This is ex­tremely high-qual­ity farmland, deemed so rich and fer­tile that it was clas­si­fied as sig­nif­i­cant for the whole state of NSW.

These in­cred­i­bly rich red soils are ca­pa­ble of such high pro­duc­tion that this area, though very small in rel­a­tive size, sup­plies the whole state with most of its sweet pota­toes.

Though ev­ery­one wants a new hos­pi­tal, sus­pi­cion is rife in the com­mu­nity about the de­ci­sion on this lo­ca­tion. Farm­ers from the Cud­gen Plateau called a public meet­ing this Tues­day.

The com­mu­nity de­serves to know why the State Govern­ment be­lieves the loss of this large par­cel of state sig­nif­i­cant farmland is un­avoid­able, and is this re­ally the one-and-only par­cel of land in the en­tire shire that is suit­able.

Coun­cil and the com­mu­nity have fought fiercely over many suc­ces­sive gov­ern­ments to pro­tect these pre­cious farm­lands.

Many at­tempts have been made to re­zone and de­velop the Cud­gen Plateau.

For­mer Na­tional Party MP Don Beck and his wife, for­mer mayor of Tweed

Coun­cil Lynne Beck, own farmland near this new hos­pi­tal site and have been push­ing for re­zon­ing for devel­op­ment for many years.

The last pro­posal for a

po­lice sta­tion was knocked back by the NSW La­bor Govern­ment when they were in power as it was con­sid­ered other op­tions had not been ex­hausted.

With news now that the NSW Govern­ment is ac­tu­ally com­pul­so­rily ac­quir­ing the prop­erty rather by agree­ment with the land owner, it seems the state could have pur­chased any prop­erty, not just those vol­un­tar­ily of­fered up for sale.

Coun­cil was not al­lowed to be in­volved in the site in­ves­ti­ga­tions or se­lec­tion process, and we were not con­sulted on the lo­ca­tion be­fore the de­ci­sion was an­nounced.

There must be much more trans­parency to jus­tify this de­ci­sion if the govern­ment is to re­tain any cred­i­bil­ity on this with the Tweed com­mu­nity.

I can’t be­lieve the Na­tional Party, who are sup­posed to rep­re­sent the farm­ers, are so hell­bent on de­stroy­ing this farmland.

I think they are go­ing to have a fight on their hands, es­pe­cially with an elec­tion on the hori­zon.

— Katie Milne,

Tweed mayor

PHOTO: NIKKI TODD

FIGHT­ING CAUSE: James Pad­don, Les­ley Steel, Hay­ley Pad­don and Jane Prichard, or­gan­is­ers of a meet­ing call­ing for Cud­gen farmland to be pre­served.

PHOTO: NIKKI TODD

DE­BATE: For­mer Tweed mayor Max Boyd, cur­rent Tweed mayor Katie Milne and Coun­cil­lor Ron Cooper at­tend a meet­ing at Cud­gen Leagues Club on April 10 to dis­cuss the pro­posed site for a new hos­pi­tal at Kingscliff.

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