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Objection to Westbury Prison Site

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Wednesday, 24 June 2020

Tags: Northern Prison, Westbury

Objection to Westbury Prison Site, Dr Rosalie Woodruff, 24 June, 2020


Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin) - Mr Deputy Speaker, the Westbury residents are clear that the Government has caved in to their community's strong backlash about what was the preferred site for the northern prison.

They are also sure that the battle is not over and they are bemused, outraged, perplexed and are simply maddened by the Government continuing to fixate on Westbury as the site for a northern prison. This is a battle that they are intending to continue because the Government has made a decision to choose a site which is manifestly inadequate by every measure. It was not even on the preferred site initial assessment list. It does not have access to gas, water, or sewerage services. The road to the Birralee Westbury reserve site is in very poor condition. It is very windy, it is very narrow, it is already of concern to local residents. How it could possibly have a continual stream of prison vehicles and the flow of workers every day, relatives coming to visit people, it staggers the locals that this site could be looked at.

The biggest and strongest reason why it is a total dud of a site was brought home to us by locals who have contacted us, the Leader of the Tasmanian Greens, Cassy O'Connor and myself, in the last few days with their great distress that this beautiful reserve estate piece of land could be chosen for a prison site. The respected field naturalist, Sarah Lloyd, who received an Order of Australia Medal this year because of her contributions to ornithology and to bird literature in Tasmania, amongst many other things, spoke of her distress about this site being chosen. She has documented over 15 years more than 30 species of birds, including endangered and threatened white goshawks, wedge-tailed eagles and masked owls. Despite Ms Archer saying that this is not a pristine piece of land, Ms Lloyd makes the compelling point that it is maybe not pristine to look at but it is pristine for biodiversity.

That is exactly what Tasmanian dry sclerophyll forests provide. They are richer in biodiversity than wet forest and rainforest. It is the dead branches and the lying logs that are a fantastic home. The so-called degraded and log-strewn ground is where birds nest, where they feed and where the food source is, so this is the stuff of great biodiversity and has been recognised as such by its reserve land status. It is listed as a Tasmanian reserve estate on the Government's own Tasmanian land information system. It is classified reserve class informal reserve on other public land. Its reserve status is informal reserve.

It is 70 hectares of Crown land property identification number 7031141 and it was listed and reserved because of its high conservation value natural forest, purchased by the state of Tasmania in 1997 with the express purpose of meeting the Regional Forest Agreement. It was purchased in November 1997 and it was formerly owned by Westbury veterinary surgeon, the late Dr Harold Laker, who was then of Cal Zeehan in Westbury. That land was purchased as part of the CARR estate - the comprehensive adequate and representative reserve estate - which was designed to protect values on private land.

The parties to the Regional Forest Agreement who signed off on this particular land were agreed on a strategic plan for the private land component of the CARR reserve system in Tasmania. It was an advisory committee that included representatives nominated by DPIPWE by Private Forests Tasmania, the Forest Practices Board, the Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association and the Tasmanian Conservation Trust, and it was DPIPWE who chaired the committee.

That committee chaired by the Government, chaired by the Corrections minister who ought to know this as the previous minister for environment, her own department at the time last year was the one that made the advice on which property should be included within the CARR reserve system. This Birralee Road Westbury reserve property which is considered suitable for a northern prison was chosen to be held in perpetuity by the state of Tasmania on behalf of the Australian Government as part of the National Reserve Estate, and that is the same property that this Government seeks to raze to the ground for a minimum of 15 hectares and put a prison on it.

This is already being used as a home for endangered and threatened birds. It has amazing biodiversity and natural values. It is this type of land of all others in Tasmania that we have diminishing areas of. Ms Lloyd makes the point that she has conducted regular bird surveys elsewhere in northern Tasmania and consulted with colleagues and they know that many of the bird species she sees on this particular property that are regarded generally as common and widespread have been declining alarmingly just in the past decade. The reasons for those declines are many but what they know is that the areas of bush like this so-called bushland, as the Premier said, important bush, are fast disappearing and that all remaining habitat for these and the other species must be protected as a matter of urgency.