WRAP - No prison in Westbury
WRAP media release - 9 July 2021

State Government forced to refer Masked Owl to the Commonwealth

Premier Peter Gutwein has repeatedly sought to downplay the conservation values of the nature reserve near Westbury since it was announced as the new site proposed for the Northern Regional Prison, June 2020.

At the time of the announcement, the Premier described the reserve as having the characteristics of a bush block which had been used by locals as rubbish dump.

But this portrayal has been completely discredited, including by the government's own environmental consultant Mark Wapstra, who identified an active Masked Owl nest on the reserve in August 2020 and who considers the reserve as ideal habitat for Masked Owls.

Then suddenly on 24 June 2021, in an abrupt backflip, the Premier conceded the "sensitive natural values" of the Westbury reserve in Parliament.

"The Premier has been backed into this position by incontrovertible evidence, including from the government's own consultants.

We have this week been advised by the Project Director for the Northern Regional Prison that the proposal will now be referred to Minister Ley under the Environment Protection Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

The presence of a Masked Owl nest on the reserve, known since August last year, would be the trigger for this referral.

The Premier's recent public acknowledgment of the sensitive natural values of the reserve are clearly aimed at softening the embarrassment the government will face over this reality check.

It is almost impossible to conceive of a more ludicrous position for the State government to be in, having to defend our already battered environmental credentials while being actively engaged in the destruction of its iconic endangered wildlife," said Linda Poulton.

Once the referral has been made, the public will have the chance to submit comments which we will strongly encourage them to do.

Linda Poulton
Spokesperson, WRAP Inc


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