WRAP - No prison in Westbury
WRAP media release - 14 September 2020

Government wasted taxpayer money on postal survey of former site for prison

On 18th March 2020, the postal survey of the Meander Valley municipality, aimed at ascertaining sentiment on the Northern Regional Prison, commenced and was undertaken through to 15th April 2020. [See attachment]

The survey was conducted by Myriad Consulting, with SGS Planning and Economics compiling Myriad's results in its final socio economic report. The postal survey was, by the Government's own account, a significant exercise.

After the completion of the postal survey, the Attorney-General repeatedly stated that the Government needed time to assess the SGS Report and come to a decision informed by its contents, which included the results of the postal survey.

The SGS Report was released concurrently with the Premier's announcement of the new Crown Land site near Westbury on 18th June 2020. In that announcement, the Premier stated that extensive consultation with the community had guided the Government's decision to move to the new site. The postal survey was a pivotal part of the Government's community consultation process.

Information recently released under Right to Information has revealed that a Government adviser/consultant was in fact on the new Crown Land site on 15th March 2020 [prior to the commencement of the postal survey on the old one], undertaking a natural values survey which would inform the Government's decision to move the Northern Regional Prison project there. [See attachment]

In other words, the Government was undertaking due diligence on the new Crown Land site while maintaining the illusion that consulting on the old one would inform its decision. It spent significant taxpayer money to maintain that illusion. In reality, the new site had already been identified and due diligence on the new site was being undertaken.

The cost of the Myriad postal survey and the SGS Report have not been released, despite an RTI request WRAP made on 15th June 2020 which has inexplicably fallen off the desk of the RTI delegate of the Department of Justice.

"The fact that the Government had already made up its mind to commence due diligence on a new site before even commencing the postal survey on the old one shows that the postal survey was a complete farce, most likely an expensive one, undertaken at taxpayer expense. It was nothing but a costly exercise to maintain an illusion that the Government was still to make up its mind on the industrial site, in order to buy time.

This should come as a shock but sadly it is not surprising given the Government's conduct of the whole site selection process which has seen vast sums of money being spent on consultants with nothing to show for it. Even worse, this is an approach that the Government considered appropriate in the epicentre of the COVID-19 pandemic when the looming economic recession was clearly on the horizon.

If the Government is willing to spend money on false pretences like this, how can Tasmanians trust it to be prudent with expenditure in the coming recession, particularly when it comes to the Northern Regional Prison which for some reason remains a fixation bordering on obsession?"

Linda Poulton
President, WRAP Inc
Westbury