State Government and landowners in battle over hospital site
THE State Government has begun the compulsory acquisition process for the Tweed Valley Hospital site at Cudgen as the landowners and Health Infrastructure battle it out over the price of the land.
NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard told the Tweed Daily News that negotiations were still under way with the site owners, who had a "markedly different view on the value of the property that the taxpayers have to pay for”.
According to RP Data, the site is owned by Kerry Prichard and Duane Joyce, who bought the 22ha property for $2 million in September 2010.
Mr Hazzard previously said the owners wanted a price "far, far above” what the land was worth.
"Health Infrastructure has advised they will continue negotiations with the vendor but have also commenced the compulsory acquisition process as a backup based on the government's clear instruction that the community deserves a new hospital as soon as possible,” Mr Hazzard said.
"Taxpayers have to get a fair price and a fantastic hospital.
"I understand that Health Infrastructure expects to either arrive at a mutually agreed price or to complete the formal acquisition process in the absence of a formal agreement, no later than this year or early in the new year.”
Mr Hazzard's claim the agreement could potentially happen next year comes after months of assurance by Health Infrastructure and the State Government that work on the site would begin before Christmas.
But Mr Hazzard said settlement for the property could happen "as soon as tomorrow” if the site owners "came to the party in terms of reasonable expectations”.
He said efforts by state Labor and the Greens to have the site moved to either the existing Tweed Heads site or Kings Forest were "designed to frustrate the process”.
"Today, I make it no clearer again, Cudgen is the site,” he said
"To date, it appears there has been a collaboration between the Greens, Labor and a particular developer where those two political parties are still looking to support the developer in having the hospital site relocated to the developer's site. That is not going to happen.
"I am taking very seriously the advice from the doctors at Tweed Hospital and I think it's time people started focusing on exactly what's going to be in that new hospital instead of wasting energy on what has already been decided.”
Mr Hazzard said he was "frustrated” by shadow health minister Walt Secord, who was working with his former boss and Federal Richmond MP Justine Elliot to give her husband Craig Elliot a "leg up in his campaign” as state Labor candidate for Tweed.
Mr Secord previously worked as a chief of staff for Mrs Elliot while she was Minister for Ageing in 2007.
Mr Hazzard said no plans had been made for the future of the current Tweed Heads hospital site.
"The focus on the moment is getting the new hospital built,” he said.
"There's been no consideration given whatsoever to the future use of the current Tweed site but there will be full community consultation when that time comes, however that's some years away.”
Mr Secord said it was "extraordinary” that the State Government would refuse to listen to the community following the Wagga by-election loss, which saw a 30 per cent swing against the Liberal Nationals last weekend.
"What I find extraordinary is after the Wagga by-election loss the Liberal Nationals are still refusing to listen to the community,” he said.
"That the Liberal Minister for Health would be insisting on the hospital being built at Cudgen when the majority of the community wants it at Kings Forest instead, it's mind-boggling.”
State Labor candidate for Tweed Mr Elliot said Mr Hazzard "just needs to do his job”.
"The only people who should be frustrated are the people of the Tweed, Brad Hazzard is trying to force a hospital onto an inappropriate site,” he said.
"This Sydney-centric government is deaf to regional NSW.”