'It is literally across the road from where I’m building a house'

Behind bars: This narrow road separates Ami Beck's (right) future home from the proposed prison land; she has joined Britt Bryant to fight the plan. Picture: Robert Peet.
Behind bars: This narrow road separates Ami Beck's (right) future home from the proposed prison land; she has joined Britt Bryant to fight the plan. Picture: Robert Peet.

When Dapto mum Ami Beck bought her dream block in a new housing estate at Kembla Grange, she never imagined it might someday have a view of prison walls and barbed wire.

Yet that’s a scenario the 26-year-old and her family are now confronted with, after the NSW Government on Monday announced it selected land across the road for a possible maximum security jail.

“I saw that there was a jail proposed for West Dapto, and I just thought ‘oh my god, that’s going to be my home soon’,” she said.

“And then I saw the map – I was speechless – it is literally across the road from where I’m building a house.”

Her future home, in Kembla Grange Estate, is located on the western corner of Sheaffes and Paynes Road, while the map released by Corrective Services shows the potential prison site would stop at the eastern edge of those roads.

Ms Beck says she still can’t imagine how a prison might affect her family’s life if the proposal goes ahead.

“We’ve wanted to build since the day we got married, and it was a great time because we’ve got two kids and we wanted to build a house for our family,” she said.

“We loved the spot, we loved that it’s in Dapto because we already live here. We ended up getting exactly the block we wanted – and we’re hoping to start building in about two months.

“We would lose a lot of money if we were to walk away now.”

Like Ms Beck, Britt Bryant who grew up in the nearby suburb of Dombarton, was shocked by the jail proposal.

Together, the two young women have started an online campaign to oppose the jail being built at West Dapto.

Ms Bryant says she is not opposed to the idea of a prison in the region – acknowledging the jobs and investment it could bring in –but is adamant the government has earmarked the wrong location.

“We’re just asking them to consider alternative locations, that won’t economically affect this residential growth area,” she said.

The pair have set up a Facebook page, as well as an online petition outlining their case. 

Meantime, Wollongong’s deputy mayor David Brown has joined the growing call for more information about the jail.

At the next council meeting, scheduled for May 7, Cr Brown will put up a notice of motion asking for a Corrective Services representative to address the city.

“This just seemed like a bolt from the blue – a bit like the green bus decision, where nobody knew much about it before the announcement,” Cr Brown said.

“We just don’t know if this is a thought bubble or a done deal. There are a thousand questions that need to be answered.

“For instance, we need to assess [building the prison] versus the opportunity cost of doing something else on the land – I would have thought the land was ideally suited to support port activities.”

“People are just confused and concerned – and it’s the lack of information that is causing this concern at the moment.”

Cr Brown said building a prison at the entry to West Dapto could mean the council was forced to reconsider the road layout, residential land lots and infrastructure requirements for the area..

“It could have a ripple effect on the whole north-eastern part of the land release,” he said.