WRAP - No prison in Westbury

Letters to newspaper editors

'Council caused this mess'

The Examiner - 23 August 2021

The recent meeting forced onto a stubbornly reluctant Meander Valley Council was as a result of two petitions calling for the council to meet to discuss the notion of dumping a maximum-security prison onto a small, rural town.

The first petition with 800-plus signatures was dismissed by council on a technicality, the second with 1000 signatures that even the autocratic general manager had to grudgingly accept.

The success of the meeting was remarkable in that somewhere between a reported 200-300 people turned up to the unheated facility, on a cold, rainy night.

This was despite the council publishing two erroneous, confusing, non-compliant notices in the newspaper, and only publicly advertising the event on their website.

The meeting was dictated by council to be held in the early evening on a week night in Deloraine to make attendance difficult for a proportion of valley residents.

The meeting, supposedly between residents and the council, eventuated as an address from the prison project manager, six speakers for and against the proposal, but with the councillors gagged yet again by the autocratic general manager, probably because at least one councillor is implicated in applying for the prison to be built here (December 12, 2017 and September 26, 2018).

The mayor eventually accepted that it was probably a mistake not to have surveyed the people before applying for the prison.

The overwhelming message, clearly given and grudgingly received at the meeting was that council caused this mess.

It is up to council to get us out of it.

Peter Wileman, Westbury

Can't staff one we have

The Mercury - 10 August 2021

Ignoring for a second that prisons don't actually work, the Libs go in hard on law and order but can't even safely staff the prison we have. There is no evidence from anywhere in the western world that prisons do anything other than cause more crime in the long run. There are numerous models that work but none based on Victorian models of custodial corrections.

Why is this state government and others in Australia sticking with a completely broken process and (appallingly) committing to building another, ridiculously expensive University Of Crime and Hopelessness? This is not a criticism of dedicated custodial officers who operate under appallingly unsafe conditions but the place they work in damages nearly everyone it touches.

Mike Radburn, Sandy Bay

Take tip from Trump

The Mercury - 10 August 2021

Incarceration itself does not rehabilitate. It leads to recidivism and increased crime. Even President Trump passed the First Step Act into law in 2018 in recognition of the costs that high levels of incarceration and related reoffending impose on taxpayers both fiscally and in reduced community safety. Building an additional prison flies in the face of modern law reforms of the most conservative administration in the Western world. It will make Tasmanian a laughing stock across the entire political spectrum.

Linda Poulton, Westbury

Better options

The Mercury - 10 August 2021

Jobs, jobs, jobs in the North when the Westbury Prison is built. Do you know anyone who says "I want to be a prison guard when I grow up"? The government needs to desist with its plans to build a prison on Birralee Rd. It is quite clear the location is inappropriate, the local community don't want it and if a new prison in the North is essential, there are more suitable options. In the meantime they need to better manage the one we do have because there's plenty of room for improvement.

Monica Antel, Cambridge

Doomed to fail

The Mercury - 10 August 2021

In the town of Carrick sits the ruins of a building known as Archer's Folly. Construction began in 1847, and it was sold 20 years later, an unfinished shell. Its ruins stand as a reminder of the ambitions of one person, doomed to fail. On Birralee Rd, there stands a nature reserve, purchased in 1999 with Commonwealth money, earmarked by the Gutwein government for a maximum-security prison. Corrections Minister Elise Archer, says she is fully cognisant of the environmental impacts of a prison, yet there is evidence of a wealth of flora and fauna right on the prison footprint. This project is already more than a year late, and will continue to be delayed - because it is the wrong site. In 20 years, one can wonder if the prison will be called Archer's Folly 2.0, assuming it ever gets built there.

Martin Hamilton, Westbury

Offset provision a 'complete con job'

The Sunday Tasmanian - 8 August 2021

Regarding reports that the Tasmanian government is planning to "offset" the environmental values of the proposed Westbury prison site with other land that could be instead protected. Australia's national environmental laws allow such offsets, but they significantly favour the destruction of natural habitat. This offset provision in our environmental laws is a complete con job. a developer's dream that has been granted thousands of times over the last 20 years. This has obviously led to significant habitat loss for endangered species, such as the masked owls at the Westbury prison site. Each time, two areas of habitat are reduced to one, with the allowed destruction of the original habitat. Why is Tasmania's environment department involved in such blatant political horse trading?

Chris Donaldson, Westbury

Start process again

The Examiner - 26 July 2021

With all of the trouble that Minister Elise Archer has had with Risdon since she took over the corrections portfolio in 2017, it appears to me that the proposal to build a new prison on a wildlife reserve at Westbury indicates a devious intention.

Tasmania cannot possibly afford to run two similar prisons.

There are the obvious major staffing problems, as well as the ridiculous financial cost.

It's therefore reasonable to suppose that the Westbury wildlife prison is intended to replace the failed Risdon prison.

The Meander Valley Council wrote to the government in 2017 suggesting that Ashley Detention Centre be extended to become a corrections facility, perhaps with an adjoining market garden facility along the lines of the Hayes Prison Farm.

Minister Archer jumped in and started the current farcical proposal over and above the suggestions of the council.

Not only have the council been blindsided, but the Meander Valley residents have been put through two years of real discomfort from this brain burp.

Start the process again under a new, effective minister, and do the job properly and transparently, without all of the trickery that we at Westbury have endured for the last two years.

Peter Wileman, Westbury

Locking out jobs

The Mercury - 31 March 2021

The few pro-prison people in Westbury continue to state that should the Northern Prison go ahead, the town will gain an increase in employment. A simple online search shows the opposite. Big prisons and small towns don't mix. The small town lucks out and rather than gaining employment, a big prison sets the town on a course that in the long run causes economic stagnation and decline.

Westbury is a vibrant little town with a richness of community socially and economically. This government development puts all this at risk.

Anne-Marie Loader, Westbury

Westbury Reserve concerns

The Examiner - 16 October 2020

Last year on World Environment Day the Premier proudly stated that our natural environment was of major importance to Tasmania.

This year he is saying that it is OK to simply excise one-third of the declared nature reserve at Westbury and destroy the viability of the whole for it to become the site of the Northern prison. Calling it a shovel-ready infrastructure project rather than the critical natural asset that it is.

This is blatant hypocrisy.

How will we trust those in government to ensure the continued existence of even the smaller patches of our precious natural inheritance?

What hopes for sound and responsible custodianship of Tasmania's outstanding places of rare and highly rated world heritage value while he is underestimating the intrinsic value of what Tasmanians love?

Helen Tait, West Launceston