Maclean protests hospital land sale

LOWER Clarence residents turned out in force on Saturday to send a message to the North Coast Area Health Service that Maclean District Hospital land is not for sale.

The woman who began the fight against the proposed parkland sale, Judith Little, summed up the crowd's sentiment.

“This is a short-term gain at the expense of the long-term future,” she said.

About 250 people protested against the sale of 2580 square metres of hospital land.

Residents expressed anger and disbelief at what they described as a lack of community consultation by the health service.

“How come we didn't know?” asked Maclean resident and rally speaker Johnno Johnson.

Speakers at the rally including State Clarence MP Steve Cansdell, Federal Cowper MP Luke Hartsuyker, Lower Clarence residents Jim Agnew, Paul O'Halloran, Mr Johnson and Ms Little differed in their opinions on how the land should be used but all opposed the sell-off.

They were unconvinced by the health service's promise that money from the sale would go towards a $250,000 upgrade of the hospital's accident and emergency department.

“Using $250,000 to renovate the accident and emergency is like spending $250 to renovate your kitchen,” Ms Little said.

“Can we even guarantee this will go to the hospital?”

Yamba resident Jim Agnew said with an ageing population in the Lower Clarence, the hospital needed to plan for the expansion of services and parking over the next 30 years.

Elisabeth Skinner is one such retiree, who moved to Maclean six years ago.

She said Clarence Valley Council nominees should tell the public if they intended to rezone the land once it was sold.

Although the land is zoned for hospital purposes, Clarence Mayor Ian Tiley said he feared the State Government would circumvent council to rezone the land if the sale went through.

Despite meeting with former health minister Reba Meagher's office last week, he said the Government's Cabinet shake-up meant the sale was unlikely to be on the new Minister's radar.

In a written statement, the health service rejected claims the sell-off was part of a downgrade of the hospital and said there was still a suitable site for expansion to the rear of the existing block.

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