A Launceston man is urging the state government to forgo building its Northern prison at a contentious site at Brushy Rivulet and instead build it on his vacant 100 hectare block at Rocherlea.
Andrew Nowakowski, 56, a small business owner, says he purchased land at Rocherlea about three years ago – adjacent to a forestry reserve – intending to build a house on it.
But to Mr Nowakowski’s frustration, he discovered after he’d bought the land that he wasn’t permitted to build on it under the City of Launceston council’s interim planning scheme.
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“The land is basically useless to us at the moment under the planning scheme,” he said.
The government undertook an expression of interest process for the proposed $270 million Northern Regional Prison in 2018.
Mr Nowakowski contacted the Department of Justice offering his land as a potential site for the prison, but the EOI process had already closed.
A different parcel of land at Rocherlea was one of five sites shortlisted but an area at the Valley Central Industrial Precinct on Birralee Road at Westbury was ultimately where the government decided it would build the prison.
“The Rocherlea area, they were looking at it and then they said they couldn’t do it,” Mr Nowakowski said. “I thought, ‘Why not?'”
After a sustained local backlash against the initial site, a new 70 hectare Crown land site at Brushy Rivulet, further along Birralee Road, was landed on. However, this has proved just as controversial as the first option.
Concerned residents in the area have trumpeted the conservation values of the land in question, but Corrections Minister Elise Archer says it is not a reserve.
Documents dating back to 2015, released last month, show that threatened flora species had been observed on the Crown land and that it was in the line of sight of an eagle’s nest.
But Ms Archer has said the information was “out of date” and that the land’s natural values had been reclassified after the vegetation present was determined to be a non-threatened type.
Mr Nowakowski said he had offered his land to the government “for a very low price”. He has now written to Premier Peter Gutwein to restate his offer.
“We’re in a bit of a valley so you can’t see it from anywhere,” Mr Nowakowski said of the land.
“The nearest house is 1.5 kilometres away.
“The land offered has no natural heritage issues [and] is well away from homes, solving most of the … issues [with the new site].
“All we are asking is our site be considered as an alternative, assessed against the … [new] site, using the original criteria and panel process.
“After Westbury fell through, [the government] actually should have gone back through all the other [sites] they had from the expressions of interest. Instead of going straight out to [Brushy Rivulet], they should have gone back through the process.”
Labor corrections spokeswoman Ella Haddad agreed with Mr Nowakowski that it would have been preferable for the government to have reconsidered the sites originally put forward in the EOI process before deciding on an alternative site.
“After the government’s back-down on the original preferred site, it then announced a new site out of the blue, again with no community consultation,” Ms Haddad said.
“The fact is, the new site wasn’t even on the original shortlist considered by the government.
“The government should admit it’s failed and head back to the drawing board and this time do it right.”
Ms Archer there had been an “extensive” consultation process on the initial site for the prison and that a further formal EOI process wasn’t undertaken prior to the government shifting its attention to the Crown land site.
“The government is committed to building the Northern Regional Prison on the current Crown land site,” Ms Archer said.
“Work has progressed to undertake due diligence investigations on that site to ensure this important infrastructure project proceeds in a timely manner.”
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