Controversial drilling works begin on prison site despite outcry
By Patrick Gee
21 October 2020
Drilling at northern prison site will be 'fully cognisant of the local environment', says minister
Core testing work has begun at the proposed Northern Regional Prison site after concerns drilling could displace a wedge-tailed eagle with a nest nearby mid-breeding season.
The core testing is part of a geotechnical investigation commencing this week to inform the government's due diligence process.
It was due to start on Monday last week, but was paused so that the Department of Justice could seek further advise from environmental consultants following outcry from environmentalists, Brushy Rivulet land owners and prison opposition groups. Corrections minister Elise Archer said the government was committed to delivering the maximum security prison in an "effective and timely manner".
"In accordance with the Works Authority, drilling works have been able to safely begin with contractors able to work in a way that ensures disturbance to vegetation and soil is kept to a minimum," she said.
"This core testing will advise us of the composition of the soil, clay and rock which is an important element of the planning process.
"These important geotechnical investigations will be fully cognisant of the local environment."
Concerned residents were on site this morning for the arrival of work crews and heavy machinery to monitor the activity "and how much damage is being done" and to "make a statement".
Westbury Residents Against the Prison president Linda Poulton said she did not trust the government's environmental advice and there was a list of threatened species at the site that could be impacted including Tasmanian devils and the recent discovery of a masked owl scat.
"I think it's time we get
out [our] legal strategy in order," she said.
The $270m project is expected to create 1000 jobs and deliver an economic boost of $500m to the region.
Nearby residents will be kept informed of updates and developments and via the Department of Justice website.