WRAP - No prison in Westbury
WRAP media release - 11 August 2021

WRAP outlines its expectations for public meeting

The Meander Valley Council has been compelled through a petition we organised to hold this public meeting on the Northern Regional Prison. They are not here of their own volition.

The Council's planning for this meeting has been aimed at minimising public attendance and particularly public attendance by those most affected by the current proposal, the residents of Westbury and surrounds.

Apart from placing a public notice in The Examiner over 3 weeks ago, the Council has made no effort to advertise this meeting. It did not publicly display the meeting on any of its noticeboards which it is required to do under the Local Government Act 1993. Notice of this meeting has not been drawn to the attention of people as required-under the legislation. Many, many people would not know that this meeting is even being held. Holding a meeting on a weekday evening instead of during the day has also made this meeting hard to attend for many.

Our relationship with some on the Council has hit an all time low (see enclosed email from Cllr Sherriff to me).

The Council's General Manager rejected our request to provide any input on this public meeting, stating in an email to me on 16 July 2021 that Council would NOT correspond with WRAP on "....progress to plan the meeting, who has been invited, or any other detail of the public meeting."

In the meeting, the Council proposes to allow anonymous written questions to be selected from a hat like a lucky dip. This flies completely in the face of transparency and is open to manipulation.

We have made it clear that we object to this process. This is a called a public meeting for a reason. Questions should be asked from the floor. People should be required to identify themselves and state whether they reside in the municipality or not. We know that some Councillors supported us in this but they were overridden.

We have been told that the meeting will be shut down if people do not follow the strict procedure that the Facilitator announces at the beginning of the meeting. We believe that certain elements on Council would like nothing more than for this meeting to be shut down on any pretext.

This is a meeting is not about filling pot holes in a road. It is about a controversial and emotive project that will irrevocably change our municipality forever.

People are naturally passionate about this project on either side of the debate.

We trust that this will be recognised by the Facilitator and that people, on whichever side of the debate they fall, will not be punished for expressing their feelings.

We intend to engage in a respectful meeting, but one at which freedom of speech is not shut down in the interests of politically motivated crowd containment.

 

Outcomes that we seek

We want to make it clear that this meeting was called about the prison as a proposal for our municipality. The meeting subject is not limited to the current site proposed for the prison and Council acknowledged the wider scope of this meeting at its meeting in July 2021.

We do not expect the Councillors to give a view on the merits or otherwise of the proposal planned for the nature reserve on Birralee Road.

This meeting is about whether the municipality needs a prison or not. It's also about asking our Council to undo the damage it has done.

In 2018, our Council invited this prison into this municipality like a Trojan Horse. If not for the Council, the Meander Valley would not have been chosen for this prison.

We ask our Council to withdraw its support previously given for the Northern Regional Prison and, restore an even playing field.

We want our Council to ascertain its own facts on the pros and cons of having a maximum security prison in our municipality by commissioning a proper, independent impact assessment report. The Government's SGS report was only ever designed to show the benefits of the prison and not the disadvantages. It cannot be relied upon by the Council as an independent or accurate report.

Our under-resourced prison system is in complete disarray and draws nothing but negative attention to Risdon Vale. There is nothing to suggest that a new prison here will operate on any different basis. It will be under-resourced and plagued by the same problems. It will shape the future of the municipality forever. None of this matters to Elise Archer. But it should matter to our Council.

Our Council put its hands up for this development in 2018, knowing nothing about the benefits and disadvantages of such a project for the wider municipality. In doing so, it put the cart before the horse.

We want our Council to go back to Square 1 and find out the facts about what this project would mean for our municipality, no matter where it would be placed.

Once it has those facts, we ask it to come back to ratepayers and consult us, which is something the Council obliged to do under section 20(2) of the Local Government Act.

Until today, the Council has taken no steps whatsoever to consult its community about this project. It's something that ought to have been done in 2018, before it opened the door to this divisive proposal. We want it to do so from here onwards.

Linda Poulton
Vice-President and Spokesperson, WRAP Inc

 

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