WRAP - No prison in Westbury

Westbury Residents Against the Prison remain unconvinced

By Nick Clark
The Examiner
19 June 2020

The state government's proposed new prison site was more like a cruel joke than a viable alternative, Westbury Residents Against the Prison president Linda Poulton said.

On Thursday, the government changed plans for the $270 million Northern Regional Prison.

Instead of a site 2.1 kilometres from the post office, it has proposed one 5.2 kilometres from the town centre in an easterly direction along Birralee Road.

The 70-hectare Crown Land block is protected under the Tasmanian Nature Conservation Act according to signs on the fence at the site. WRAP has about 140 members and put significant campaigning pressure on the government over the previous site.

"The sentiment that is starting to trickle back to the committee is that our members are against the new plan," Ms Poulton said.

"We've had limited time to gauge a wider response but we have had a lot of strong opposition to it."

"It feels like a very sadistic joke to a lot of people here.

"The government purports to have listened to what the people of Westbury said."

"But when they said they wanted it further away from Westbury they did not mean a further three km along the road. Moving a maximum-security prison just a little way down the road is not going to change the way they feel about it."

Ms Poulton said that the prison would still impact on tourism.

"The demographic in the town will shift significantly. At the moment we have a very small historic town people have come here for a quiet lifestyle, elderly people don't want to see the demographic change that dramatically from what it is," she said.

State Growth Minister Michael Ferguson said the government was committed to a Northern prison.

"It is important for Northern jobs and it's important for the justice system," he said.

"It would be fair to say that there would be some people in this state who would not support it anywhere."

He said the government had listened to the community and acted responsibly.

The Law Society president Crystal Garwood said the society strongly supported a prison in the North of the state.

"We are pleased to see the government is continuing to consult with the community to determine the best location," Ms Garwood said.

"Prisons located in both the north and the South of the state will undoubtedly assist the functioning of the justice system.

"The real advantage of a northern prison is that it enables offenders from the North and North-West to continue to engage and stay connected with their families.

Westbury residents are split on the new plan.

Maddison Winzar-Sutton she was not fazed either way.

"I've heard where it's moving to and I have a family friend near there who is not too happy about it but for me, I'm not fazed."

Fredrick Curle, 88, said he had no objection to the current (original) site or even the future site. "I have no objection I wouldn't be in favour or against quite honestly it's just a nonsense all this argument about the damn thing," he said.

"I mean they are right next door to it at Risdon Vale, aren't they?"

"Marion" said that the new site was better than the old site.

"I've still got some concerns because it is still relatively close," she said.

"The land seems to be a nature reserve and given the lack of foresight so far I doubt whether they have even looked into the wildlife and environmental effects."

"The government hasn't communicated properly and I don't think a prison is needed," he said.

He has been opposed to the prison all along and said the new site was not much better.


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