Southern Infrastructure revises plan for second Goulburn jail

Architect Perumal Pedavoli's artist's impression of the revised jail proposal on Goulburn's southeastern outskirts.
Architect Perumal Pedavoli's artist's impression of the revised jail proposal on Goulburn's southeastern outskirts.

The proponent of a second prison for Goulburn says he won’t go ahead with his revised plan if MP Pru Goward doesn’t support it.

Southern Infrastructure Pty Ltd director Paul Watson is scaling down his unsolicited bid lodged with the State Government last August for a $2.5 billion 5000-bed private jail on Goulburn’s outskirts. This time he’s suggesting an 1800-bed publicly run facility to be paid off by the State Government over 25 to 31 years. At year 31 the land and building would be transferred to government, which would have responsibility for full operation and cost.

The estimated $1bn facility would be located on a 263-hectare parcel off Mountain Ash Road, currently owned by Neville Burrows. Mr Watson says it will create 560 full-time jobs.

The government and Ms Goward previously dismissed the concept, saying it was not needed, given the State’s investment in new prisons and beds. Corrective Services also cited Goulburn’s distance from Sydney’s courts as a negative.

Ms Goward has not changed her mind. Mr Watson dropped his revised concept into her office last week.

“As per my previous comments, the NSW Government does not support a second privatised prison for Goulburn and neither do I,” she said in a statement on Tuesday.

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A spokeswoman for her office said this response did consider Southern Infrastructure’s latest plan. This is despite Mr Watson pitching it as publicly run. Documents stated the facilities would be delivered via a public private partnership.

He said the government had not encouraged him to resubmit the proposal but he decided to do so after canvassing people.

“A lot of people in Goulburn see it as a positive long-term thing but if we don’t get the support we’ll walk away and won’t submit it because we can’t keep banging our heads against a brick wall,” Mr Watson told The Post.

He said he met with Corrective Services Commissioner Peter Severin two weeks ago who gave him the impression Goulburn’s location remained a problem. Mr Watson has criticised the government’s recent announcement of a new prison for west Dapto, saying it was on flood prone land, the landowners, Bluescope Steel, initially knew nothing about it and residents didn’t want it.

“To me it’s like the government flying a kite...I can’t see how it will pass the pub test,” he said.

The announcement came after the government rejected Southern Infrastructure’s plan for Goulburn.

Mr Watson still believes a ‘southern (prison) hub” is needed in Goulburn given Sydney’s population growth southward and predicted rise in inmate numbers. 

The revision also considered discussions with the council, Public Service Association, representing prison officers, the department and other local community leaders.

He’s proposing a modern, “state-of-the-art” facility designed to reduce recidivism. Stage one comprises 600 beds, 60 for dementia and aged related disabilities and 100 for custody based intensive care inmates.

The “two to three storey building” also includes health and welfare, recreation, industry and education facilities. This stage could be underway by 2019 with future stages developed in consultation with Justice Infrastructure.  

Proposal documents also state there is capability for a designated Justice Health facility, including a 600-bed hospital and dementia care area.

Mr Watson acknowledged he had sent the revised proposal to Goulburn Labor candidate, Dr Ursula Stephens.

“Goulburn Labor requested the information but I have not spoken to her (Dr Stephens) about it. Nor has she communicated with me about it, “ he said.

Mr Watson said he had to be apolitical but with Goulburn being in a “12-month election campaign,” if people wanted something from government to enhance the city, now was the time to ask.

Mr Watson previously worked with Dr Stephens’ husband, Bob, on a proposed freight and logistics hub proposal on the same site. This plan was abandoned after striking financial trouble. The Southern Distribution Hub company was subsequently placed in receivership and the land sold to Mr Burrows.

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