Corrections Minister Elise Archer says the proposed Northern Prison site at Westbury is 'not a done deal' during a heated public meeting with residents on Monday night.
The Westbury Town Hall was a far cry from its usual cheerful atmosphere, as more than 200 people crammed inside to express their opposition to the proposed site and hear what Ms Archer had to say.
The minister was greeted by signs reading 'department of joke', 'still no meaningful consultation just spin', 'shame', 'no prison in Westbury', 'council has sacrificed Westbury', 'libs fail', 'state and MV council collude against valley voters' and 'listen to the people'.
The reoccurring concern raised by residents was the lack of community consultation before the September announcement and the retroactive nature in which the state government had conducted itself.
By only ordering a social and economic impact assessment and organising a survey on the entire Meander Valley community's thoughts, not just Westbury residents, after the announcement.
The resounding words that echoed around the hall from Ms Archer emphasised the site was preferred but 'not a done deal'.
"A final decision has not been made," she said.
"It's important to consult on one preferred site, if we decide that this is not the site and not to proceed then at that point that's a decision for government to make as to what process it might take down that track...but we are prepared for that to occur."
She said 10 sites were submitted during the Expression of Interest period in 2018 but several were deemed not suitable.
MORE ON THE WESTBURY PRISON:
- Westbury prison process questioned
- Archer assures Westbury that prison decision still open
- 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
The other main issues raised were the impact on tourism, property prices, safety and the closeness of the site to the town centre.
Out of more than 30 people asking a question or expressing an opinion over the hour-and-a-half long meeting, only one was in support of the prison at Birralee Road.
Most of the crowd simply wanted to be heard it seemed, so Ms Archer knew their frustrations with the process and heard their opposition to the proposed site.
One of several questions Ms Archer could not answer was if nearby residents to the proposed site would be compensated for their presumed property devaluation.
She said the question was based on the government having made a final decision and as it had not she would not answer a hypothetical situation.
We're raising funds for four Tasmanian charities as part of our Empty Stocking Appeal. Can you help?