Opposition is growing to a proposed hospital development on prime red soil at Cudgen which threatens agriculture in the Tweed Valley.
Last Thursday night Tweed Shire Council voted to oppose the state government’s plan to build the $534 million health facility on 23 hectares of farm land owned by the Pritchard family, immediately across from the Kingscliff Tafe.
Local federal Labor member, Justine Elliot, has also questioned her state equivalent, Nationals member Geoff Provest for supporting the plan, considering there were another 28 potential sites in the district and that the plateau was classified as ‘land of state significance’ in 2002.
The Cudgen Plateau, with views to the Pacific Ocean, is a cap of basalt soil from the eroded Mt Warning caldera and supports 20 farms, growing primarily sweet potatoes for eastern seaboard city populations with a typical return in the order of 55 to 65 tonnes a hectare, grossing more than $100,000/ha in a good market.
In the past this plateau supported dairy, sugar cane, and mixed vegetables.
“We’re good for the community,” says second generation sweet potato producer Jim Paddon, pointing out the plateau is fertile ground for expensive to produce crops like sweet spuds, which also provide jobs in harvesting, transport and as a customer for fertiliser and chemical.
“As far as the new hospital goes, the site they have chosen is in a ridiculous place. There will be traffic, infrastructure, and more people upsetting our operations.”
Another young farmer, who wouldn’t be named, said the loss of suitable land was squeezing the life out of the next generation producer. He has invested heavily in having a go and makes ends meet harvesting corn in the Central West.
“It’s hard enough getting ground around here as it is,” he said, pointing to the loss of red soil ridge country at Terranora, developed by Metricon. “It will only be worse of they keep taking land off us.”
Another 400 houses are approved on sandy soil immediately south-west of the plateau. Another existing subdivision is located on a section of its northern slope.
The Tweed community has backed its farmers with a petition at Change.org attracting 5000 signatures. A formal version more acceptable by state government bureaucracy is currently being drafted.
“If we can stop this development we will be able to draw a line in the sand, so to speak, in support of other farming communities affected by encroaching development,” said Mr Paddon.
Public meeting at Cudgen
Right to farm protesters and community opposition to the proposed hospital development near Kingscliff, on the Far North Coast, will gather at Cudgen Leagues Club tonight, Thursday. 7pm.
The NSW State government’s plan to build another hospital, this time on 23 hectares of red soil farmland in the Tweed Shire, has met a range of protesting voices, as the interest in locally grown produce takes hold among sea and tree changers in this district.
Those in attendance will include Federal Labor member Justine Elliot, who has taken interest in slamming the plan. Also there will be her state counterpart, Nationals MP Geoff Provest.
The Tweed Shire Council last week voted down the hospital notion in favour of keeping the basalt soil plateau free of development and retaining the right to farm.
At current returns, the 23ha parcel is producing $65,000/ha, of which half goes back to community. When the market is on top you can double that money which suggests a seasonal loss to the district.
There are similar issues affecting Alstonville Plateau, the Redland Shire south of Brisbane and at Bundaberg near the Hummock.