Hospitals and farmers don’t mix...
Community calls for rethink on hospital site
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,
FIGHTING CAUSE: James Paddon, Lesley Steel, Hayley Paddon and Jane Prichard, organisers of a meeting calling for Cudgen farmland to be preserved.
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.