The NSW government has released initial contact details – and directed residents to a website – as it moves to begin community consultation about a proposed maximum-security jail in the West Dapto area.
The government announced on Monday it was investigating a large parcel of land at Kembla Grange for a correctional facility and released a map of the area at the centre of the prison probe.
The potential for a jail being built on the site has angered residents who have recently moved into new houses nearby, as well as those who have bought land there for their future homes.
On the flip side, the government has touted the hundreds of new jobs – both during construction and once complete – that would be created by a new jail.
The first steps of consultation include a website – correctiveservices.justice.nsw.gov.au/new-prisons/facilities/kembla-grange – as well as an email address and phone number to submit feedback.
Formal submission can made via email to firstname.lastname@example.org and those without internet can ring 1800 875 345 to have their comments recorded.
The consultation will eventually include drop-in sessions.
Interestingly, the website shows the proposed Kembla Grange jail in a “new prisons” section, which lists other correctional facilities that are either operational or already under construction.
The website has been live since earlier this week and initially stated Dapto as the location.
A Mercury analysis of the overall site being looked at by CSNSW is made up of five individual pieces of land, which are owned by three separate landholders.
All of those landholders – BlueScope Steel, Dapto Leagues Club and the Catholic church – have said they weren’t aware of the prison plan prior to Monday’s public announcement.
The 237-hectare site sits within the ever-expanding West Dapto Urban Release area. More than 50,000 residents are expected to call the area home once the development is complete.
The area is already home to the historic West Dapto Catholic Cemetery, which occupies one of the five pieces of land within the proposed jail site.
A frequently asked questions (FAQ) sheet, also available on the website, makes specific mention of the burial site.
“We recognise that the West Dapto Catholic Cemetery is an important emotional, historical and cultural site,” the fact sheet said.
“If the project were to be approved, Corrective Services NSW would work with Council, the Dapto Catholic Parish and the local community to minimise any potential impacts.”
Earlier this week, a spokesman for the Catholic Diocese of Wollongong told the Mercury discussions between the parish that owns the cemetery and CSNSW had suggested the new jail, if approved, would not take any of the road used to access the cemetery or the burial site itself.
The fact sheet questions cover why the area was selected; the purpose of the government’s preliminary investigations; if any other NSW sites were being considered; how long the area has been looked at for a correctional facility; and the planning approval process required, should the Kembla Grange site be given the green light.
The question ‘How big is the proposed facility?’ was not answered on the fact sheet.
When the Mercury asked the same question earlier this week, a CSNSW spokeswoman said it was “far too early to comment on the size of any proposed facility” and that early investigations would help to determine its design.
[See below for the full list of questions and answers below]
Meanwhile, Illawarra Labor MPs Anna Watson (Shellharbour), Paul Scully (Wollongong) and Ryan Park (Keira) were briefed on the proposal on Wednesday – two days after news of the proposed jail broke.
The Labor Party’s state spokesman for corrections, Guy Zangari, was also part of the meeting.
In a joint statement, the Illawarra MPs said: “The briefing provided no additional information on the detail of the facility than those limited details which has been publicly provided”.
The briefing confirmed there had been no final decision to build a corrections facility on the site, the MPs said.
They have called on the parliamentary secretary for the Illawarra, Gareth Ward, to include information sessions in Dapto and Unanderra as part of the consultation process.
Mr Ward acknowledged that “people may have more questions”.
“Let me be clear – what we have announced is community consultation,” he said.
“The NSW government has not made any decision on whether or not this proposal will proceed. Our first priority in this process is to consult the community.”
FAQs – KEMBLA GRANGE JAIL PROPOSAL*
The NSW Government has begun preliminary investigations to determine whether a Kembla Grange site would be a suitable location for a correctional facility.
A facility in the area would generate hundreds of new jobs, both temporarily during construction and permanent jobs after completion.
Why has the area been selected?
The site was selected for its size, proximity to major roads and other amenities, and available workforce.
One of the major benefits for the Illawarra region would be the creation of jobs - new correctional facilities create hundreds of new jobs both during construction and when complete.
There are also other positive economic benefits such as the flow-on effects extra wages provide the community in supporting local businesses, community organisations and families.
What is the purpose of the preliminary investigations?
These will look at environmental factors such as soil and water requirements and site topography, to determine whether a correctional facility is feasible and, if so, what form it might take.
Are any other NSW sites being considered?
Corrective Services NSW are continuing to consider other possible sites for future development across the State.
The NSW government is investing $3.8 billion on a record expansion and upgrade of the state's prison system.
How long has the area been under consideration for a correctional facility?
Consultation with key stakeholders, such as Wollongong City Council, began in April, 2018.
How will this fit into Wollongong City Council’s West Dapto Masterplan, which is in consultation with the Department of Planning and Environment?
Corrective Services NSW will continue to consult with Wollongong City Council, the community and other stakeholders on any plans and priorities for the area’s future, including the West Dapto Masterplan.
Urban growth areas such as West Dapto require a mix of residential, employment and special use lands.
A significant portion of the site is zoned for industrial use.
If the project goes ahead, what are the planning approval steps?
Corrective Services NSW is working with the Department of Planning and Environment to identify land use planning issues that would need to be considered in the assessment of the proposed facility.
Any future planning process would consider the proposed facility’s size and design, and environmental issues such as flooding constraints.
Corrective Services NSW will comply with all relevant planning and consultation requirements.
Would there be any impact on the West Dapto Catholic Cemetery?
We recognise that the West Dapto Catholic Cemetery is an important emotional, historical and cultural site.
If the project were to be approved, Corrective Services NSW would work with Council, the Dapto Catholic Parish and the local community to minimise any potential impacts.
What are the next steps?
Corrective Services will prepare a Final Business Case which will incorporate site investigations and stakeholder consultation for NSW government consideration and decision.
The community will be informed of any significant developments within that process.
How do I have my say?
Contact the Corrective Services Engagement Team for more information by phoning 1800 875 345, emailing email@example.com or visiting our website at newprisons.justice.nsw.gov.au.
*Source: NSW Corrective Services. A copy of the fact sheet is available online at: correctiveservices.justice.nsw.gov.au/Documents/new-prisons/kembla-grange-proposed-facility-faqs.pdf