Westbury residents have reported seeing multiple government cabinet ministers appearing to hurry away from television reporters at the site of the proposed prison in Westbury on Wednesday.
Peter Wileman and others were being interviewed by a television reporter when they received word that Premier Will Hodgman, Corrections Minister Elise Archer and several Lyons MPs were in town, with some at the prison site on Birralee Road, so they headed over to investigate.
When approached by the media, ministers appeared to hurriedly get into their cars and drive away, witnesses have told The Examiner.
However, a government spokesman said that was far from the truth.
"The last Westbury business the minister visited today with some of her colleagues was Pearn's Steam World and spoke with the proprietors," he said.
"Two of the protestors approached, one of whom the minister met last Saturday and the other she will be meeting with again with his wife about their concerns.
"The minister then left to go back to the preferred site on Birallee Road to be collected as the minister needed to leave for another commitment.
"Any suggestion the minister 'hurried away from residents' is ridiculous and misleading."
We’ve just seen Justice Minister Elise Archer and Police Minister Mark Shelton speaking at the proposed Westbury Prison site. As media approached they quickly got into their cars and drove away. I’ve also seen Guy Barnett in town. #politas@WINNews_Taspic.twitter.com/Qbj9QWWMQl— Holly Corbett (Monery) (@holly_corb) November 6, 2019
Mr Wileman said it was disappointing to see because Ms Archer had earlier claimed she did not have time in her diary to hold a public meeting before December.
"They saw the press and ran," he said.
"[Premier] Will Hodgman, the whole gang, they were all in town today.
"Some residents saw them and got onto Facebook, it went around the village, so we went down there.
"Watching them run away, it was like Keystone Cops."
Mr Wileman was among a group of residents to attend a meeting with Ms Archer on the weekend when they tried to get a commitment for a public meeting in Westbury.
MORE ON THE WESTBURY PRISON:
- Many Westbury residents 'hostile' to jail plan
- Northern Tasmanian prison site revealed
- Michael Polley says Westbury not right place for new prison
- Northern Tasmania Development Corporation defends prison
- Westbury should sense opportunity, mayor of council with three prisons says
- Meander councillor John Temple questions prison plans
- Drop-in information sessions confirmed for Westbury prison
- Elise Archer talks up proposed Northern Regional Prison
They got a commitment of a meeting before Christmas, but were told it would be impossible to have a meeting before December because of a busy schedule.
The government held a cabinet meeting in Launceston on Wednesday, after which ministers headed to Westbury.
Ms Archer said the visit was part of the consultation process.
"As Minister for Corrections I called in to Westbury again this afternoon with the Premier and my Lyons Liberal colleagues, following a Cabinet meeting in Launceston, to talk with some local residents regarding the Northern Regional Prison preferred site," she said.
"We met with residents and local business owners who came forward with both constructive and informative feedback, and I welcome this as a part of our ongoing consultation with the Meander Valley community.
"We acknowledged the concerns some members of the community have about the Northern Regional Prison, while also hearing from those who believe this $270 million project will bring many economic benefits to the region."