Government axes Kembla Grange prison plan

The Kembla Grange jail proposal is dead.

Minister for Corrections David Elliott announced on Friday morning that the government has ruled out the controversial proposal.

“Following six months of detailed investigations and consultation, we have ruled out the site at Kembla Grange,” Mr Elliott said, in a statement issued a short time ago. 

“Today’s announcement provides certainty for landholders in the area, as well as current and future residents of Kembla Grange.”

The minister’s office said the decision came after “extensive feasibility studies, which considered environment constraints, operational needs and the social impacts of any proposed prison”.

Studies commissioned by Corrective Services NSW found that while roughly half the land at Kembla Grange was suitable for development, the site lacked a single block of adequate space for a prison facility, making it too expensive to build on, according to the statement.

Kiama MP Gareth Ward said: “more than 300 members of the Illawarra community provided feedback on the proposal, assisting CSNSW to identify potential constraints”. 

“Residents can be confident that we have done our homework and made the right decision for the Illawarra and NSW by ensuring any potential new prison will provide value-for-money for taxpayers.”

The decision will bring to an end a period of intense campaigning on the issue, most noticeably by a group of residents who have strenuously opposed the proposed jail based on its close proximity to areas earmarked as residential.

The state government revealed its plans on April 9. 

The prison was to be built on land bordered by the railway line, West Dapto Road to the north, with its southern border following Darkes and Sheaffes roads.

The site is bordered by land set to take on hundreds of houses and some of the new village centres of West Dapto, which will include shops, businesses and a primary school. 

Ami Beck, who co-founded the Residents against Dapto Jail group after learning the jail would be built directly across the road from the housing estate where the she was building her new family home, welcomed Friday’s decision. 

Ami Beck (right, with fellow protester Britt Bryant), pictured at the proposed jail site in April. Only the roadway would have separated her new home from the development. Picture: Robert Peet

Ami Beck (right, with fellow protester Britt Bryant), pictured at the proposed jail site in April. Only the roadway would have separated her new home from the development. Picture: Robert Peet

“We are thrilled to hear that common sense has prevailed and this great community has finally been listened to,” she said. “We thank everyone who has united to oppose this proposal.”  

“Despite the pain this woefully unsuitable proposal and this delayed announcement has caused the West Dapto community, we appreciate that the NSW Liberal Government has finally come to their senses. 

Earlier this month Ms Beck announced she would stand at Wollongong’s Ward 3 byelection on November 24, seemingly on an anti-prison platform. 

She confirmed on Friday that she still intended to run for the seat, citing the West Dapto masterplan as her top priority. 

“A strong and proud community has been formed from this [jail] proposal,” she said. “Our focus now turns from what we don’t want in our community to what we do want. We want the good community, great place to raise our families and the sustainable jobs that we were promised.”

More to come

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