Kiama MP Gareth Ward lambasted members of the Greens party on Shoalhaven City Council in an address to NSW Parliament on Tuesday, September 22.
The speech was in response to a push from Mayor Amanda Findley and Councillor Nina Digiglio for the state government to consider a greenfield site for their proposed $434 million investment in the Shoalhaven District Hospital.
"I need to advise the House that neither the Greens' political party mayor nor any Greens' political party councillor has contacted NSW Health, the health minister, me or the Member for South Coast to seek information or advice on the viability of a greenfield site," Mr Ward told parliament.
"The Greens' political party councillors have undertaken no assessment of possible sites and given the size of land required for a potential new development the only possible options for a hospital site would likely be those in a flood or fire zone."
Cr Findley defended her actions and challenged Mr Ward to engage in a "logical conversation" about the development.
"It's a shame the Member for Kiama wants to be a drama queen when all we want is a logical conversation about the future of healthcare in the region," she said.
"That's my opinion, not the opinion of council.
"As far as I'm concerned discussing the possibility of a greenfield site in public is the first step before submissions would be made."
In his address, Mr Ward claimed the Greens had not raised the issue of the hospital in the recent state election campaign.
"The Greens political party made absolutely no commitment during a campaign when these matters were actually relevant," he said.
Cr Digiglio did push for a greenfield hospital option when she campaigned for the seat of Kiama during the state election.
In February 2019 she said: "A purpose-built, best-practice health facility will serve the community properly well into the future and attract qualified health professionals to the region. I support action now in community consultation before the planning process commences to determine how we can build something truly worthwhile rather than patch up an outdated institution."
However, the Greens did not make an official commitment to funding the project at the time.
Mr Ward said there was another opportunity to raise the issue when he and Shelley Hancock campaigned for the new multi-storey car park at the hospital.
"The Greens political party councillors were well aware that the multi-storey car park investment was about meeting the future needs of the current hospital campus," he said.
"If you had a concern about the current site would you not raise it then?"
Ms Findley said the question was "stupid".
She further claimed that previous calls for a greenfield site had been "squashed", and this was the final opportunity to push for that option.
"At that point in time [the car park investment] $434 million was not on the table to expand the hospital," she said.
"Over the past decade whenever anyone opens their mouth about a greenfield site they get exactly that reaction from the Liberal Party and it gets squashed fairly quickly.
"But this is the do or die moment for the local members to make a change that will serve the community for the next 100 years if they chose a decent site."
The debate between Mr Ward and Cr Findley is the continuation of a months-long stoush between the state and local politicians.
In June Mr Ward wrote to the Minister for Local Government, Shelley Hancock, which said the council was "dysfunctional" and "toxic". He urged her to hold an urgent election for the council.
He continued his criticisms of the council in his parliamentary address.
"Calls for a new site risk delaying upgrades of important local hospital services," he said.
"At best these calls are without evidence and misinformed, at worst they are desperate calls prior to a council election to distract from The Greens' appalling performance and lack of investment in local cycle-ways, roads and parks."
Cr Findley hit back at the accusations and said Mr Ward had his own reasons for criticising the council.
"For the past four years the Member for Kiama has been running a campaign for his own friends on Shoalhaven Council," she said.
"I do not understand his recalcitrance in looking at how the government will get the best bang for their health dollar in the Shoalhaven."