Why the Dapto jail plan was scrapped and what happens now

Jailbreak: Part of the Kembla Grange site the government had proposed to use to build a prison. Picture: Adam McLean
Jailbreak: Part of the Kembla Grange site the government had proposed to use to build a prison. Picture: Adam McLean

The cost to build a jail at Kembla Grange wasn’t “rational or sensible”, according to Parliamentary Secretary for the Illawarra Gareth Ward.

The controversial proposal was revealed by the state government on April 9, with a view to seeking community feedback.

Which the government got in spades, most notably from the No Dapto Jail protest group.

It was partially that opposition that led to the government officially ruling out Kembla Grange as a jail site on Friday.

“There were two issues, the facts in relation to site constraints and we also considered community consultation,” Mr Ward said.

He said the flood-prone nature of the land simply made it too cost-prohibitive for the government to build the jail there.

“When you look at the amount of money that the government  would have had to have spent to make this happen, it was not a rational or sensible proposal,” he said.

Corrective Services Minister David Elliott said Corrective Services NSW studies found the Kembla Grange site lacked a single block of adequate space for a prison facility, making it too expensive to build on.

Mr Ward said the government still needed to build a jail somewhere but added he was not aware of any other sites being considered.

In regards to the potential jobs in the prison that were now lost to the region, Mr Ward said it was up to Wollongong City Council to find alternate uses for the site.

Freedom: Government MP Gareth Ward amid protesters opposing the proposal to build a jail at Kembla Grange. The government has scrapped the proposal.

Freedom: Government MP Gareth Ward amid protesters opposing the proposal to build a jail at Kembla Grange. The government has scrapped the proposal.

“I understand that Wollongong City Council objected on the basis that they had other people interested in the site," he said.

“Well, now it’s on Wollongong council to make sure those people come good.”

It was a call supported by Labor’s spokesman for the Illawarra Ryan Park, who was pleased the government had listened to the community.

“What I now call on local government to do is to make sure that we get the appropriate industry there to create the jobs that we need,” Mr Park said.

“The reality is this is employment land for a growing region. That site can’t remain with nothing on it.”

Wollongong City Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery said the council’s economic development division had been negotiating with various heavy industries to move into the Kembla Grange site.

He said any development was dependent on the plans of BlueScope, who owned some of the lands in question.

“I’m still waiting to hear from BlueScope as to their willingness to make that land available for other employment opportunities,” Cr Bradbery said.

Tagging the decision to scrap the proposal as “good news” he said the region didn’t have to accept the prison on the basis of job creation.

“The residents made it very clear to me as well as to the councillors and others we are not just taking any jobs in this city any longer,” he said.

Illawarra Business Chamber CEO Adam Zarth had said the prison could have provided job opportunities – but needed to have the support of the community.

“While a new correctional centre would generate secure jobs and flow-on benefits for the region, we noted that the selected location must represent best economic use of that site,” Mr Zarth said.

“Aside from the concerns raised by the community, the proximity of the proposed Kembla Grange site to Port Kembla and other economic infrastructure means it is better utilised for industrial activity.”

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