A win for emergency volunteers, youth justice and prison programs in latest Tasmanian budget

A major overhaul of Tasmania’s prison and justice systems has been promised in the latest state budget.

The first stage of the new Northern prison will include 140 beds, and is expected to cost $150 million.

Of the total funds for the first stage, $45 million has been allocated over three years from 2019, when the project will get underway, with the remaining $105 million not promised until 2022.

A site has yet to be selected, but the initial construction phase is expected to be completed within five years, followed by the second stage, which will complete the 270-bed project.

A further $7.3 million has been dedicated to the prison system in the North, with the redevelopment of Ashley Youth Detention Centre.

The first $1 million has been budgeted within the next financial year, with the remaining $6.3 million to be spent over the following two years.

Alongside the upgrades at the facility, $2 million has been allocated for the Youth at Risk Strategy and another $150,000 over three years for the CREATE Foundation Tasmania, which supports young people leaving the Out of Home Care system.

In the North-West, funds have been focused on upgrading the Burnie Magistrates and Supreme Court complex.

Initial funds for the development have not been allocated until next year, with tenders for a building contractor to be called by March.

A completion date for the project has not been revealed, and only $8 million of the total $15 million promised has been included in the forward estimates.

Justice Minister Elise Archer described the current court complex as “outdated and no longer fit for purpose”.

“About 50,000 Tasmanians access the courts in Burnie each year,” she said.

“We are better resourcing our courts and prisons and ensuring sentencing options better reflect community expectations to keep Tasmanians safe.”

The two projects to benefit from funds this financial year will be a new remand centre and a pilot literacy program at Risdon Prison in the state’s South.

The $70 million remand centre development will be funded across three years, with the first $10 million to be spent within the next year.

The pilot program, Chatters Matters, will receive $150,000 in total, allocated within the next year.

It is expected both the Northern prison and Southern remand centre projects will together create 4000 direct and indirect jobs during their construction.

Beyond the infrastructure spend, an investment in emergency management will see upgrades to State Emergency Service and Tasmania Fire Service equipment as well as an increase in Tasmania Police officers.

The budget includes $36.8 million over four years to recruit at least 125 additional police for the state.

This will include employing six specialist ice investigators.

“Two specialist ice investigators will be attached to drug squads in each region to provide specific focus on ice-related drug activity that has a devastating impact on our communities,” Police Minister Michael Ferguson said.

A full-time Special Operations Group has also been promised as part of the 125 officers, but funds have not been budgeted for until 2020.

The bulk of those funds has been allocated in the final two years, with about $4 million budgeted within the next financial year and nearly $7.5 million the following year.

Nearly $11 million has been set aside for the third year and more than $14 million in the final year.

With more officers planned to be on the frontline, two new police stations will be built.

The Longford and New Norfolk stations are expected to cost $5 million each, with $2 million allocated immediately for the northern site and $2.5 million for the southern site.

A further $3 million has been set aside for Longford in 2019-20 and another $2.5 million for New Norfolk.

“In regional areas, police stations are particularly important and help build a positive working relationship between police and the community they serve and the new stations will be a contemporary, well-equipped base for policing activities,” Mr Ferguson said.

Current and new officers can also expect new technology, with the previously promised roll-out of body-worn cameras to be completed and drones to help crackdown on hoon drivers, evaders and illegal trail bike riding.

It is understood the drones will be rolled out to police districts based on need.

Volunteers have also been recognised this year with funds to allow both Tasmania Fire Service and SES to purchase new equipment for its volunteer units.

Two million has been promised over four years, with the volunteer groups to have to access $500,000 each year.