Council 'bias' favours alternative hospital site supporters
THIRTEEN community members will have their voices heard by Tweed Shire Council as the debate over alternative sites for the Tweed Valley Hospital continues.
Mayor Katie Milne used her deciding vote on Thursday to approve a list of 13 people selected from 27 applicants for the community reference group, which aims to assist councillors in their deliberations with the State Government about alternative sites for the $534million hospital.
The group will be offered a choice of four dates for two separate meetings to be held before councillors meet again with the Government for a third consultation.
The group will have a choice to meet with councillors in Murwillumbah twice either:
- 9am-noon on Thursday, June 21 or 4.30pm-7.30pm on Friday, June 22; and
- 9am-noon on Wednesday, June 27 or 6pm-9pm on Thursday, June 28
Cr Milne said those chosen for the community reference group would provide a better insight into the thoughts of people opposed to the Government-selected site at Cudgen.
"We have been invited as councillors by the State Government into this process but without any input from the community," Cr Milne said. "We're asking the community to advise us so then we can advise the State Government."
Cr Warren Polglase said it was "unjust" to only select community members for the reference group who most likely didn't support the Cudgen site.
"The only predetermined thing that council gave (on the application) is that you have to be someone who supports alternative sites," Cr Polglase said. "I thought community consultation was about hearing from people who are for and against."
Cr Polglase later accused the mayor of misleading the community. "This has gone beyond a joke. The mayor has just misled the community over this."
Cr Ron Cooper, who voted in favour of the community reference group, said it was important people had their chance to speak directly to councillors about where they want the hospital to be located.
"This whole operation has locked out the community," he s
aid. "The broader community haven't had a say. I think that our role here is to give that broader community a say, give them enough information to make an assessment and have them learn something along the way to have the debate become more constructive than it has been."
Penny Hockings, who heads Save our Hospital Site and was denied a place on the group, said she was disgusted residents who supported the Cudgen site would not get a say.
"This is disgraceful and blatant bias demonstrated yet again," she said.
"Yet again those councillors who profess to represent the entire Tweed community chose to only represent those that were perceived to share their view."
Biliambil Heights resident Dion Andrews, who was also rejected from the community reference group, said he was disappointed he wouldn't get a chance to share his thoughts, despite never publicly sharing his opinion on his preferred site.
"I have lots of reasons for being on this committee, not because I'm for any one site," he said.
"I've spoken to a lot of health experts, I've had a lot of people close to me who have have to travel interstate for cancer treatment and I've taken a keen interest in getting a hospital built.
"I haven't stated anywhere any site I'm for because I don't believe all sites have been put forward, that's what the extra six weeks were for.
"I was waiting to see all sites."
Cr Reece Byrnes was absent from the meeting.
The 13 people who will share their thoughts with council about alternative hospital sites are:
- Donna Smith
- David Brunckhorst
- Barbara Roughan
- Jenny Hayes
- Julie Murray
- Lindy Smith on behalf of the Tweed District Residents & Ratepayers Association
- Richard Roberts
- Brian Keating
- Ron Hoffman
- Hayley Paddon
- Graham MacGillivray Neave
- Val Kirk
- Ronni Hoskisson
* The Tweed Daily News is hosting its own community forum on the hospital issue on Monday, June 18 at Tweed Heads Civic Centre Auditorium from 5-7pm.
NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard will be among the panellists at the meeting.