The government's environmental consultant for the proposed Northern Regional Prison north of Westbury has resigned, causing potentially months of delays with a new consultant and works permit required.
Ecotas, owned and operated by Mark Wapstra, recently informed the Department of Justice that the company could no longer assist on the project given the need for a "more certain forward schedule".
A Department of Justice spokesperson said Ecotas had also stated it had to focus on "significant other work".
"A new consultant will be engaged in late 2020 to undertake this important aspect of the planning work," the spokesperson said.
"The department will be providing the new environmental consultant with all work completed to date for its information."
Drilling works to test the Brushy Rivulet site's rock and soil composition are also yet to start, despite the department planning for these to occur in mid-October.
Initial delays were put down to increased soil moisture due to heavy rainfall, however the region has experienced minimal rainfall in November.
A development application was planned to be submitted with Meander Valley Council in December, as per the project timeline, however the drilling works would have to wait until a new environmental consultant had been appointed.
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"With the delay in due diligence works on the site, a development application will be submitted once necessary information to support an application has been gathered," the department spokesperson said.
"Drilling will recommence once a new environmental consultant is engaged and advice is sought to ensure the department is able to undertake further drilling.
"A new works permit will be required for drilling to recommence."
Environmental assessments of the Brushy Rivulet site have confirmed the presence of threatened animals the grey goshawk, wedge-tailed eagle, green and gold frog, Tasmanian devil and masked owl, as per the authority to undertake works.
Westbury Region Against the Prison spokesperson Linda Poulton said the resignation was "game changing", with the group believing it would be impossible to construct a prison on the land "without completely destroying its natural values".
"This is yet another sign that the Department of Justice is completely out of its depth with this project," she said.
"Its handling of the entire process has been ad hoc and shambolic."
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