OPINION: The government will not be pursuing the previously preferred site
By Elise Archer
20 June 2020
At the 2018 state election, the government committed to building a $270 million Northern Regional Prison to address the challenges facing the State's correctional system, and we remain fully committed to this vital project.
At a time when the State desperately needs jobs more than ever before as we emerge from the challenges of COVID-19, it's important to remember that the Northern Regional Prison project will support more than 1000 jobs in construction and prison operations, and deliver an economic boost of $500 million to the region.
With the Social and Economic Impact Study now released in full as promised, I would like to sincerely thank everyone who has shared their views with me regarding the Northern Regional Prison development.
The government has conducted an extremely detailed consultation process, which included a Prison Postal Survey posted to over 8500 households in the Meander Valley local government area, many one-on-one meetings with myself and my Department, and correspondence.
Along with the survey, there has been a planned comprehensive community consultation program that has been undertaken since September 2019.
Elements also included a phone survey of Westbury residents, multiple public information sessions, a public meeting, my all day one-on-one sessions over three days, and numerous other visits to Westbury by myself, the Premier and government local members.
A considerable amount of the Westbury community and broader Meander Valley community have also taken the opportunity to contact my office directly to offer their views on the preferred site for the prison, and responses have been provided where necessary.
Following this thorough consultation process, it is clear that there is both concern, but also support for this important development.
A clear theme reiterated by community members however, was that building the prison at a site further away from the town centre of Westbury would be preferable. The study indicated that a number of respondents indicated their level of support for the Northern prison would increase if their issues and concerns were being addressed (42.7 per cent of the phone respondents and 45.4 per cent of the mail-out respondents).
Many indicated that they would prefer a different location, away from the Westbury.
After careful consideration and taking on board the feedback, a new site has now been identified for the Northern Regional Prison. This new site is a Crown land site at Brushy Rivulet on Birralee Road, 5.2 kilometres from the Westbury.
To be clear, the government will not be pursuing the previously preferred site.Preliminary analysis of this Crown land site has been undertaken while further, more detailed work on-site will now progress.
I again thank the residents of the Westbury and broader Meander Valley community for their valuable feedback and participation in the extensive consultation process to enable this decision.
We will now undertake further due diligence of this new site over coming weeks, including talking with local landholders.
The economic impacts of COVID-19 will be felt for some time to come, and as we emerge from this pandemic, the injection of a $270 million infrastructure project and the creation of more than 1000 jobs is more important than ever.
I want to be very clear, the government will build a prison in the north of the state, and we are committed to delivering this important project on the new site in an effective and timely manner.
Elise Archer, Justice Minister