Wollongong councillors call on city to officially reject Dapto jail

The wrong fit: In a proposal to be debated next week almost half of Wollongong's councillors have echoed protests from residents, who say the prison has no part in the future of West Dapto.
The wrong fit: In a proposal to be debated next week almost half of Wollongong's councillors have echoed protests from residents, who say the prison has no part in the future of West Dapto.

Six Wollongong councillors are calling on their colleagues to sign off on a formal council position opposing the NSW Government’s Kembla Grange jail proposal.

Next Monday, councillors David Brown, Janice Kershaw, Chris Connor, Dom Figliomeni, Cath Blakey and Tania Brown will lodge a notice of motion asking for the city’s representatives to join together and reject the prison plan.

In their motion, the group will highlight overwhelming community opposition, in which residents gained almost 14,000 petition signatures against the jail before formal consultation began.

Cr David Brown, whose name appears first on the motion, said he was unsure if councillors would reach a unanimous decision but was “fairly confident” of gaining majority support.

He said the six councillors had chosen to focus not only on the “groundswell” of opposition, but also a list of technical reasons why the jail was not suited to Kembla Grange.

For instance, they have highlighted that the Wollongong Economic Development Strategy says Kembla Grange “...has been earmarked as a key employment precinct… [which will] support the expansion of the NSW Ports Port Kembla Operation.”

“The main reasons that’s been put in favour of this proposal is the economic reasons, but that argument is not particularly strong, given this land can be used to support the port,” Cr Brown said.

“That’s a critical bit of infrastructure; you can put a jail in almost any paddock in the state but there’s only going to be so much land adjacent to an expanding port.”

Cr Brown said there were already a number of manufacturing business, especially those being pushed out of Western Sydney, who had expressed interest in using the land for port and transport related uses. 

He also said councillors would highlight the plight of residents building homes in the area and facing the unexpected prospect of a neighbouring jail.

With councillors due to debate an updated vision for West Dapto next week, Cr Brown said the city would be able to make a statement that a prison was not part of long-term plans for the area.

“The draft vision will be going out for public exhibition, so people can tell us if they think we’re on the right track,” he said.

“We’re not just saying no for no good reason, we’re trying to give as many sensible planning and economic reasons about why we oppose the jail, and the [Corrective Services] reps have said they are things that will build into their planning decisions.

“So we hope that we will influence their decision.”