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Northern Prison - Location

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Wednesday, 19 August 2020

Tags: Westbury, Northern Prison

Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin) - Madam Speaker, the Government has mishandled the decision-making process around the choice of the northern prison from the very beginning, and it seems as though they are determined to make a bad situation even worse. There has never been any proper consultation for the choice of the northern prison, and the conversation - the faux conversation - about consultation for a preferred site is widely believed by residents in the Westbury area to have simply been about the site.

For some reason the Government has a fascination for Westbury. The initial decision to put the Westbury prison right in the middle of Westbury met such community backlash when the community found out what the Government was on to late last year. A big petition that was delivered by the community to council, and a number of community meetings, led the Premier to make a snap decision, and instead of admitting there was a mea culpa and coming open with northern Tasmania and being clear about a consultation process for which communities might want to have a second prison, the Government doubled down in typical fashion, and have created even more problems for themselves with the choice of a 5-kilometre shift of the Westbury prison into Birralee Road - just as close to Westbury as the residents do not want it to be.

There has been no consultation process about the seemingly random choice of this second location, and the whole process from he start to where we are now is totally opaque. We have heard a number of mistruths from the Minister for Corrections about this site, and the choice of the site.

The Government has never released the full list of what were meant to have been the preferred sites, and I have written to the minister about this fact. They need to release the report on the choice of preferred sites and the criteria, and in all likelihood we will find the community believe that Westbury Reserve on Birralee Road was never on that list.

It could not have been on that list, because it has absolutely nothing that is needed for a prison to be built. It does not have any power. It is interesting to hear Ms Butler chiming up from the Labor Party. Ms Butler who was so well known and present in Westbury until the Government made the decision to move it to the Westbury Reserve and I have not seen or heard of Ms Butler since then. Every time in parliament Ms Butler was making adjournments and MPIs on the Westbury prison.

It has gone completely silent from the Labor Party about the issues to do with the other Westbury prison site. I wonder why.

Ms Butler - Where were you?

Madam SPEAKER - Order, Ms Butler, you are being a bit defensive.

Dr WOODRUFF - Maybe the reason the Labor Party has dropped this is because it is on a listed reserve which is known for its natural values and is part of the Regional Forest Agreement. It is an important place as a bird haven and we know this from the respected naturalist, Order of Australia medallist Sarah Lloyd, who has written extensively about this, including books and creating a radio series of bird songs. It is very well known for its natural values.

The $270 million that was already a massive amount to sink into a prison, is likely to be far more than that with the choice of this new site. There is no power and they will need to extend transmission lines to the site from both directions. There is no water and there will be hundreds of metres of piping that will be needed. There is no sewerage, no gas pipelines, the road will need to be extensively upgraded and there is a $40 million grant hanging around from the federal government that has never been taken up.

Mr Shelton - Are you saying go back to the original site? No gas, no power, no sewerage.

Madam SPEAKER - Order, Mr Shelton.

Dr WOODRUFF - If the Government likes to pretend that has anything to do with the prison, they can think again because the community is on to that. The road needed that $40 million upgrade before it was slated to be a prison.

Mr Tucker - I thought the Greens fully supported upgrades of road as well as pipelines.

Madam SPEAKER - Order, Mr Tucker.

Dr WOODRUFF - Instead of having had one community group that was outraged about Westbury being chosen as the prison, there are now two more groups that have established. There are three groups in Westbury now, vocally against this. The Concerned Residents Opposed to the Westbury Prison, the Westbury Residents against the Prison and the Local Field Naturalist Group, which is very well credentialled.

The bushfire issue is massive and the bushfire prone mapping that has been done by the TFS for this site shows that. Department of Justice officials told the community that the bushfire plan for the site would involve somehow evacuating 250 maximum security inmates south to Risdon Prison.

When the residents asked how was it possible to transfer these people safely and quickly and where would they go when they go when they got to Risdon, the response was that they would get put in tents in the Risdon Prison. Would that not really help the situation in the Risdon Prison? We have already got a powder keg situation in Risdon Prison. Imagine trying to evacuate 250 inmates from a high-risk bushfire environment in the middle of a bushfire on a site which gets north-west winds directly onto the site, in the middle of a forest. It is not only the flame risk, it is the smoke inhalation risk for those people.

The site was set aside as a reserve under the Forest Agreement and important species have been documented, threatened and rare species. It is estimated that the clearing for the prison itself is 16 hectares, according to the Government but the bushfire buffer will add 19.5 hectares in addition to that 16 hectares, most of it coming from the surrounding residents' land. They are not happy about it.

The Government's tough on crime approach has been failing since they entered office and rescinded the policy position of the previous government that was effective. The community will keep fighting this and the Greens will keep speaking on their behalf.