WRAP - No prison in Westbury
WRAP media release - 2 December 2021

Is the Ashley site still on the table or was it all smoke and mirrors?

In September 2021, Premier Gutwein announced that the Ashley Youth Detention Centre would close within the next three years. He subsequently indicated that the site would also be on the table for the Northern Regional Prison.

That announcement left many opposed to the prison near Westbury confident that it would be moved away from the Brushy Rivulet nature reserve, which is so obviously the poorest possible site for the proposal.

However, Elise Archer MP, Minister for Corrections, shortly after insisted that a development application would indeed progress on the nature reserve near Westbury. The Department of Justice pressed on with its tender process for the architectural design on the controversial site.

On ABC morning radio yesterday, Mr Ian Levy, Chief Executive Officer of Australia Bauxite Ltd discussed a mining exploration licence had been applied for over 51 square kilometres on Birralee Road. He confirmed what we already knew, that the land includes the nature reserve which is the proposed site for the prison.

Had the nature reserve been formalised under the Nature Conservation Act 2002 (which is what the Tasmanian Government committed to do when it acquired the land) it could not have been included in the exploration licence. But because the Government has breached its contract with the Commonwealth and has done nothing to formalise the reserve, the mining company was able to incorporate the area into its application.

In a notice recently published only in The Advocate, the Director of Mines has indicated that he intends to recommend to Guy Barnett MP, the Minister for Resources, that the licence over the entire area, including the Brushy Rivulet reserve, be granted.

But in a surprise development, Mr Levy announced on ABC mornings yesterday that he has been asked to carve out the nature reserve from the application because the Government intends to build the prison there. And this evening, Sarah Courtney MP announced that Ashley Youth Detention Centre will not be decommissioned until 2024.

The announcement of the Ashley site as an alternative to the Brushy Rivulet nature reserve appears to have been a smoke screen. All current signs point to the prison proceeding at the reserve, and Ashley is not getting a look in.

Only Premier Gutwein is in a position to clarify what's happening. If he does not do so, we fully intend to make this a Federal election issue in 2022 because the Federal government can stop this at the stroke of a pen.

Linda Poulton
President and Spokesperson, WRAP Inc


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