Northern Rivers not all rainbows

APPARENTLY, we’re a happy bunch on the North Coast.

In its opening statement, the new State Plan’s North Coast Local Action Plan says: “The community told us that services such as healthcare, ambulance, education and aged care work well.”

The ‘community’ wasted no time setting Minister for the State Plan Linda Burney straight yesterday when she arrived at Lismore for a meeting on the plan.

Addressing the meeting separately, Lismore MP Thomas George and Lismore Mayor Jenny Dowell said one of the most critical projects facing the region – the Stage Three upgrade of Lismore Base Hospital had not rated a mention in the plan.

The Stage Three upgrade is the final step in the overhaul of the hospital, following from the replacement of Richmond Clinic and the construction of a new cancer centre and radiotherapy unit, and will effectively replace the emergency department and wards.

“Stage Three of the Lismore Base Hospital is not only for Lismore, it’s for the whole area,” Mr George said.

Cr Dowell expressed the same sentiment, saying she had lodged a three-page submission on the issue for the State Plan, which had also been left off the listed submissions in the final document.

Mr George later said a push to make Lismore a specialist regional cancer centre, was also vital to the region.

He pointed to incidents at Lismore Base, where a patient was forced to call Triple-0 to get a nurse, and The Tweed Hospital, where a pensioner was told he had to walk the 10km home after being discharged, saying health needed close attention.

“I want to call on the State and Federal governments to come and sort out what’s happening on health,” he said.

Northern Rivers Social Development Council chief executive Tony Davies said the final document for the State Plan lacked substance in providing for the North Coast.

“It’s great there’s a plan,” he said. “But if you look at the numeric targets, the targets with numbers in them are all about Sydney.”

Other key issues raised included the need to encourage jobs growth and adjust regulations to help local businesses compete with their Queensland counterparts, the lack of public transport, the lack of affordable housing, and planning delays on the Pacific Highway south of Ballina.

Speaking after the meeting, Ms Burney said the happiness with services expressed in the document referred to residents’ feelings towards those institutions and services generally and did not mean they felt there was no room for improvement.

Ms Burney described the plan as a ‘living document’, saying it was supposed to change as expectations and conditions changed.

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