Dapto jail would rob Illawarra of 2500 jobs, new report from development lobby finds

Thousands of jobs: The report says a jail could attract 1489 jobs, while “the current industrial land use setting” could bring 3994 jobs to the region.
Thousands of jobs: The report says a jail could attract 1489 jobs, while “the current industrial land use setting” could bring 3994 jobs to the region.

Building a jail at Kembla Grange would attract 2500 fewer jobs than leaving the land to be developed under its current zoning for port-related industry and homes.

These are the findings of a report commissioned by the Urban Development Institute of Australia (UDIA) released on Monday.

The document says a jail with up to 1700 prisoners would likely attract 1489 jobs, while “the current industrial land use setting” could bring 3994 jobs to the region.

Compiled by consultancy firm Corview, the report is part of the development lobby’s push against the prison.

It is also the first publicly available assessment of the purported economic benefits of the prison since NSW Corrective Services announced it was eyeing a 2.375 square-kilometre site at the northern edge of the West Dapto development area.

The primarily BlueScope-owned land is zoned for heavy and light industrial uses, as well as environmental conservation and about 33 hectares of land designated for low density homes.

The massive Kembla Grange land earmarked for a West Dapto prison includes five separate land holdings.

The massive Kembla Grange land earmarked for a West Dapto prison includes five separate land holdings.

Explaining the jobs figures, the consultants said Long Bay jail – with 1200 inmates – employs about 1051 workers in correctional services, health and administration roles.

“It is understood that upon relocation to Kembla Grange, the prison facility will be expanded to accommodate in the order of 1700 inmates,” they said. “Assuming the ratio of workers to inmates remains the same, there are expected to be in the order of 1489 workers at the new Kembla Grange prison.”

The government has previously only said the facility would bring “several hundred jobs”.

The presence of the prison may make the West Dapto Urban Release Area a less desirable location to live, reduce people’s willingness to pay for housing in the surrounding catchment, driving down prices and impacting on development feasibility.

Corview report, July 2018

In contrast to the prison roles, Corview consultants said a sample of workplaces in Wollongong showed heavy industry employed one worker per 225sqm and light industry employed one workers per 100sqm.

This meant there could be 2765 light industry workers and 1229 heavy industry workers employed on the 79 hectares of industrial land.

In addition to finally putting a figure on jobs, the report questions the “strategic direction” of building a prison on land aligned with Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s goal of making housing more affordable, saying it will “impact development feasibility”.

“The presence of the prison may make the West Dapto Urban Release Area a less desirable location to live, reduce people’s willingness to pay for housing in the surrounding catchment, driving down prices and impacting on development feasibility,” the consultants said.

They also argued anything stopping developers from building homes in the area would lead to a significant loss of income for Wollongong City Council, and for the local economy.

For instance, the consultants said 400 residential lots – which could be built of part of the land earmarked for the prison – could bring in up to $18 million in developer taxes and, eventually, $3.5 million a year in extra rates.

Further, with the average annual household spend of retail related items for Horsley and Kembla Grange calculated at about $75,000, a loss of 400 homes would mean $30 million less spent each year.

This loss could be exacerbated, they said, if the prison were to “adversely affect the project viability of surrounding residential developments” and result in fewer houses being built in West Dapto overall.

UDIA Southern Region Manager, Keiran Thomas, said there was more economic benefit to developing the site the way it’s already zoned.

“We understand there is demand for more prisons but the economic dividends from a prison can be achieved anywhere,” he said. 

“Kembla Grange is uniquely placed to bring 4,000 jobs close to new homes in the West Dapto Urban Release Area. We must grab the opportunity for growth.”