STATEMENT: Health Infrastructure stands by hospital site
NSW Health Infrastructure has defended its decision to select prime agricultural land at Cudgen as the site for its $534 million new Tweed Valley Hospital.
The organisation has released detailed information on the processes behind its selection of the new site - which is earmarked for a 22ha lot on Cudgen Road across the road from North Coast TAFE - currently home to a sweet potato crop and 4ha of rainforest.
The explanation follows an outcry from residents in the wake of the April 4 announcement of the site, with a community meeting organised by concerned farmers last week attracting more than 200 people.
In a statement issued to the Tweed Daily News, a Health Infrastructure spokesperson said while they acknowledged around 16ha of land mapped as State Significant Farmland (SSF) had been required, this represented just 0.13 per cent of the total SSF mapped for the NSW Far North Coast.
"All sites were assessed for their suitability against a comprehensive suite of criteria; informed by due diligence investigations undertaken by independent experts, and overseen by an independent probity advisor in accordance with robust NSW Government requirements,” the spokesperson said.
"The evaluation process was designed to ensure that any impacts arising from the selection of a particular site were considered against the broader community benefits brought about from situating the new hospital in that location.”
The spokesperson said the land in question sits on the far northeastern tip of the agricultural land - on the urban side of Cudgen Road - with future residential developments planned to the north.
It said several sites were investigated as part of the Expression of Interest process, including a number at Tweed Heads West, with details on these to be released in coming weeks, following briefing sessions with unsuccessful landowners.
Criteria governing their decision included location, access and traffic, urban context, built forms and landscaping, environment, heritage and culture, time, cost and value.
The department said it remained in negotiations with the landowner, who put forward the site in response to the EOI, with their preference to reach a negotiated settlement in parallel with progressing relevant planning approvals.
Full NSW Health Infrastructure statement (unedited):
Expression of Interest (EOI) proponents were notified of the selected site on the day of the Government announcement and have been offered debriefs. Once the requested debriefs for EOI proponents have been completed, the integrated project team will provide an overview of the areas in which sites were investigated and the key issues and considerations applicable to each area.
It is acknowledged that the selected site will mean that approximately 16 hectares of land mapped as State Significant Farmland (SSF) is required for the public purpose of establishing the major referral hospital for the Tweed Valley region. This area represents around 0.13% of the total SSF mapped for the NSW Far North Coast. The need for the new hospital is outlined on the project website http://www.tweedvalleyhospital.health.nsw.gov.au/Projects/Staff-(1).
All sites were assessed for their suitability against a comprehensive suite of criteria; informed by due diligence investigations undertaken by independent experts, and overseen by an independent probity advisor in accordance with robust NSW Government requirements. The evaluation process was designed to ensure that any impacts arising from the selection of a particular site were considered against the broader community benefits brought about from situating the new hospital in that location.
Concerns of local residents and farmers raised since the site announcement have included the agricultural value of the specific land put forward by the landowner in the EOI process, as well as potential flow-on impacts to other SSF on the Cudgen Plateau.
State Significant Farmland:
The location of the selected site will not fragment the Cudgen Plateau and should limit flow-on impacts to other SSF, as follows:
- The site sits on the far northeastern tip of the agricultural area - it is on the urban side of Cudgen Road, opposite Kingscliff TAFE and between existing residential areas of Kingscliff and Cudgen, with future residential developments planned to the north.
- The large size of the site (with the area targeted for hospital development approximately four times larger than the current Tweed Hospital site) allows for future hospital expansion and health and education developments on the site without encroaching on surrounding areas.
- Strengthening partnerships between Health and TAFE provides further opportunity to ensure that all health and education and supporting developments can be accommodated across these two large and collocated sites into the future.
- The importance of SSF and concerns raised previously by the community in relation to other development proposals on the Cudgen Plateau are understood.
- The selected site was put forward by the landowner in response to the EOI, along with a number of other sites on the Cudgen Plateau mapped as SSF.
- A number of sites were investigated in Tweed Heads West. Further information on the key issues and considerations for this area, and other areas investigated, will be made available in the coming weeks.
- Potential sites were evaluated against a comprehensive set of criteria and considerations in the following categories including location, access & traffic, urban context, built forms & landscaping, environment, heritage & culture, time, cost & value.
- Evaluation within these categories was informed by due diligence investigations undertaken by expert independent advisers across a broad range of disciplines; including Aboriginal Heritage, acoustic, architecture, aviation, bushfire, cost management, ecological and natural heritage constraints, flooding, geotech/environmental/contamination/hazmat, health service planning, surveyor, traffic/transport, town planner, topography/stormwater, utilities.
Access and Environment:
- Flooding is a key risk across the region, and the new hospital needs to be developed above the 'Probable Maximum Flood' level to ensure that it will not need to be evacuated due to flooding. Being able to bring in essential supplies and ensuring that the major population centres retain access to acute hospital services under less extreme flooding events are also important considerations. The new hospital will be the major referral hospital for the Tweed Valley, requiring good road connections to provide equitable access from Tweed, Murwillumbah and southern population growth areas.
- Many potential sites were discounted as not feasible due to flooding or requiring major road upgrades. The site selection process was overseen by an independent probity advisor and has followed robust NSW Government requirements for the selection of land for the public purpose and for infrastructure use.
- The site is privately owned and was put forward by the land owner in response to the EOI process. Health are continuing negotiations with the owner on the price for the land. Health Infrastructure will seek to reach a negotiated settlement in parallel with progressing relevant planning approvals. The negotiation and site acquisition process will be undertaken in accordance with the Land Acquisition (Just Terms Compensation) Act 1991.