ALTHOUGH disappointed, long-time Nowra Park advocate Bill Hancock said he is not surprised by the State Government's decision to take more of the public facility for the expansion of Shoalhaven District Hospital.
A leaked internal Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District memo to staff by CEO Margot Mains has said Shoalhaven City Council had given "interim in-principle support for the acquisition of Nowra Park" as part of the proposed $434 million hospital redevelopment.
"It's not surprising," said Mr Hancock who has lived opposite the park, also known as the Recreation Ground, for the past 45 years.
"We have slowly seen the hospital just continue to creep onto and take over more and more of the park land."
Originally part of the park was taken to establish the Shoalhaven Pre-School, then came the emergency helicopter helipad, followed by the Shoalhaven Cancer Care Centre for which a large swathe of bushland to the south western corner of the area was resumed, followed by the area for the "GP Super Clinic" now Grand Pacific Health and more recently the expansion of the $11.8 million multi-storey car park.
Ms Mains' memo said taking more of the Nowra Park area would " enable more new buildings in a more rapid construction ... enabling the current hospital to function with minimal disruption, effectively creating a greenfield opportunity for the redevelopment".
"I believe if they [Health] stays where it is at the current Nowra site, there will be too many problems," Mr Hancock said.
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"What else can they do?
This hospital site was selected more than 100 years ago in 1919 - it is no longer relevant to where the hospital is required today. A new hospital should be built somewhere closer to the major population centre, which now is the Bay and BasinNowra man Bill Hancock
"What happens after this next development in 20 years time is not big enough.
"They are committed to it, they've got to do it.
"How are they going to get the vehicles too and from it?
"All along North Street?
"This is not just about Nowra Park - it's about the riverfront.
"This development is going to sit right on top of the riverfront. The new buildings will have to go above the tree canopy.
"My opinion, visually it will look shocking from the river - it already does from over at the golf course."
Mr Hancock said the Shoalhaven River was "Nowra's most valuable natural asset".
"This hospital site was selected more than 100 years ago in 1919 - it is no longer relevant to where the hospital is required today," he said.
"A new hospital should be built somewhere closer to the major population centre, which now is the Bay and Basin.
"A new hospital should be built on a greenfields site somewhere between Nowra and the Bay and Basin.
" Building horizontally on a greenfield site is 30 per cent cheaper compared to building vertically on the same site. By remaining on the present site a considerable additional unnecessary expense will be demolition and interruptions to existing services.
"The existing hospital site can continue uninterrupted operations while a new greenfield hospital site is established.
"In 2018-18 the NSW Government budgeted the new Tweed hospital on a greenfield site had an estimated cost of $582 million [Tweed hospital is bigger than the Nowra hospital].
"The existing hospital infrastructure can be kept and repurposed to become a satellite extension of the Nowra CBD and merge all community health facilities from around the CBD."
It's not going to be part of the community, it's going to take over the community. Health growth is enormous - it just keeps growing and growing.Nowra man Bill Hancock
Mr Hancock said back in 1851 when the Nowra village was surveyed it was as a village and that's why the streets are so narrow.
"Surveyor General Major Mitchell declared when surveying the village 'All that land fronting the Shoalhaven River will be reserved for public recreation'," Mr Hancock said.
"Yet here they are destroying that.
"In the past we have made mistakes with things like the papermill, dairy factory and Manildra's industrial complex being built on the edge of the river.
"I've got nothing against Manildra which is the only one of those industries left now, but previous mistakes should not give licence to other generations to perpetuate those mistakes.
"If the park goes, what does this local community do for a recreation area and park?
"St Michael's School for instance uses it every Friday for their sports day.
"This is just going to destroy this community.
"You only have to go to Wollongong and look at Wollongong Hospital and look at the surrounding community there - what it's done to that community and see what will happen here.
"It's not going to be part of the community, it's going to take over the community.
"Health growth is enormous - it just keeps growing and growing."
He said parking is already an issue at the present Nowra hospital, with many surrounding neighbourhood streets packed with parked cars.
"How's that going to work with an even bigger expansion?"
"We have workers park out the front of our place every day - I'm actually getting to know them well.
"They tell us they won't park in the new multi-level car park because they have to pay, even if it is a reduced rate.
"They say they are not going to 'take a wage reduction' to use the car park.
"One of the girls said to me, even if they go on holidays the parking deductions continues to come out of their wage.
"Go to Hurstville, Sutherland or Penrith railway stations, there is no charge for car parking - it's only charged at hospitals and it's only sick people they are charging."
He said Nowra Park has a wonderful history, his research showed the area had played a major role in a number of local significant historical happenings and is also home to "a massive Blackbutt tree" at the south eastern end of the park.
"I'd hate to think how old that tree is," he said.
"It's almost eight metres circumference around the girth - the Bum Tree was a lot less than that and they estimated its age as about 220-years-old.
"The tree also features three major bark removal scars. I've spoken with well-known local Aboriginal spokesperson Graham Connolly Snr and he confirmed they were Aboriginal bark removal most likely for canoes.
"It's of significant local heritage and is also on the National Register of Big Trees."