Frequently Asked Questions

This page contains information in response to frequently asked questions regarding the new Northern Regional Prison.

18 June 2020 Announcement

What does this announcement mean?

After careful consideration and taking on board the feedback from the Westbury and broader Meander Valley community, the Government has announced that a different site in the region will now be progressed.

This new site is a Crown land site on Birralee Road, 5.2 kilometres from the Westbury township.

The Government will not be pursuing the previous preferred site.

Is this the final decision?

This new site has now been identified for the Northern Regional Prison.

The Prison project will be progressed on the new site, which will include considerable planning works before the project is progressed through the normal development application processes.

Is the previously preferred site still an option?

No.

Where can I find the Social and Economic Impact Study?

The independent Social and Economic Impact Study (SEIS) has been publicly released by the Government and can be accessed on the Department of Justice website: https://www.justice.tas.gov.au/strategic-infrastructure-projects/new-northern-prison

What does the Social and Economic Impact Study say?

The Social and Economic Impact Study (SEIS) includes social and economic impact analysis of the Northern Regional Prison; outcomes of a phone survey of Westbury residents and a mail survey of Meander Valley residents; and a survey of industrial businesses located in the Valley Central industrial precinct on Birralee Road.

The details of the three separate surveys conducted by the independent consultant are contained in the Study accessible on this website.

The results of the SEIS also show the proposed development will have the following impacts, in present value terms, on the Northern region of Tasmania:

  • an increased economic output of $280 million due to the construction of the prison, and a further economic output of $268 million from prison operations;
  • A broader economic benefit to the region (gross regional product) of $92 million due to construction of the prison, and a further $168 million from prison operations; and
  • A total of 739 additional full time equivalent jobs supported during construction and an additional 372 ongoing jobs supported by prison operations with a further 40 ongoing jobs supported indirectly.

The SEIS also shows that the proposed Northern Regional Prison will also generate a range of other important benefits to the north and north-west of Tasmania including improved inmate rehabilitation, driven by increased connectedness between inmates and their families during incarceration, which will lead to a reduction in crime and an economic benefit of $29.4 million to the north and north-west regions according to the study.

Why was the Social and Economic Impact Study delayed?

The survey design and process has been undertaken by an independent consultant, and has been conducted in accordance with industry best practice and professional standards.

We were aware that there were some delays in delivery of the surveys due to the COVID-19 pandemic and, as such, the original closing date was extended, following requests from the community, to allow adequate time for everyone who wanted to have their say to receive, complete and return their survey.

Will the Government’s Major Projects Legislation be used to fast track the prison?

No. The Government will not be calling in this project as a major project.

Location, design and construction

How big will the prison be?

The new Northern Regional Prison will accommodate up to 270 prisoners and be specifically designed to incorporate a variety of security classifications, remand facilities, and a women’s prison.

The approximate prison footprint is around 13 hectares.

When will the prison be opened?

Stage One construction will be completed within five years of commencement of construction, with the allocation of $150 million to house approximately 140 prisoners.

Who will build the prison?

The Tasmanian Government is investing $270 million in this project, which is estimated to create hundreds of jobs during the construction phase. Importantly for the local economy, the Department of Justice will use local contractors and suppliers wherever possible.

Will meals for prisoners be prepared on site?

All prisoners will receive meals that are nutritionally balanced, well planned, prepared and served in line with established food handling health standards. Although the prison design includes a kitchen, the level of food preparation that will occur on site has not yet been determined.  As many training programs for prisoners as possible, including food preparation, will occur on site.

Will the prison be designed to cope with winter and summer temperature extremes?

Yes. The prison will be built to comply with current building codes and standards, which require temperatures in accommodation and other areas of the prison to be regulated for heating and cooling to meet seasonal changes.

Will the prison have bright lights shining at night?

For security and safety purposes, the secure perimeter of the prison is required to be illuminated from dusk until after dawn to allow for visual detection of movement and to facilitate the 24-hour operation of the prison. Lights from the prison will be visible but as they are designed for security purposes these will shine inward on to the prison site.

During the design of the prison, the Department will explore every option to reduce any visual impacts of the lighting.

Will the prison increase the noise levels of the area?

The development will be required to operate within planning regulations, which will stipulate acceptable noise levels for that activity. The exact details of the noise that will be created by this development are not currently known to the Project team, however work is underway to identify, and where possible reduce, noise impacts.

The details of noise impacts will be laid out in the planning application and made known to the community prior to submission.

Safety and security

How secure will the new prison be?

Community safety is the Government’s number one priority. The reason the Government has committed more than $340 million to replace the State’s ageing prison facilities is to keep the Tasmanian community safe.

We are designing a modern prison complex that will provide secure accommodation and facilities appropriate for the prison population it houses. It will have multiple security features to ensure the safety of staff, visitors and the wider community.

The new Northern Regional Prison will be built to contemporary maximum security standards. The Northern Regional Prison will have security features consistent with that classification, however all classifications (minimum, medium and maximum) of prisoners will be accommodated within the prison complex.

Escapes from custody are rare but escapes from maximum security prisons are extremely rare. No prisoners have escaped from the maximum security Risdon Prison Complex into the community since it became operational more than 13 years ago.

Prison design and security systems are continually evolving, and the Northern Regional Prison’s security features will be even more advanced than those at the Risdon Prison Complex. The Northern Regional Prison project team will be examining the latest security features and technologies available to ensure the facility is as safe and secure as it can possibly be.

What sort of protection will be around the prison?

The prison will be surrounded by a continuous concrete wall, topped by anti-climb design features, which will be six metres high in total. This will provide a physical and visual screen between the prison and the surrounding area. Plantings and other features will minimise visual impact, as can be seen from many other contemporary new-built facilities across the country.

What happens if there is a riot or lockdown inside the prison?

Prison staff manage any disturbances internally and the community will not be affected by what occurs behind the prison’s walls. Police do not enter the prison in times of riots and disturbances.

What happens in the event of an escape?

Prisoner escapes are handled by Tasmania Police. In the event of an escape, Police secure areas by following their own procedures, as they do in responding to any emergency.

Who will be accommodated in the Northern Regional Prison?

The Northern Regional Prison will accommodate all classifications (minimum, medium and maximum) of prisoners including male and female prisoners. It will also accommodate remandees (inmates yet to be sentenced).

When the prison is completed will prisoners at Risdon who come from the North and North-West be automatically transferred?

Normal prison administrative and operational processes will determine which prisoners are sent to the Northern Regional Prison, with priority given to those required to appear before Northern courts.

Will all prisoners from the North and North-West of the state be able to be housed in the Northern Regional Prison?

The Tasmania Prison Service will endeavour to accommodate prisoners from the North and North-West in the Northern Regional Prison in the first instance. However, when completed, the prison has a capacity of 270 prisoners with a proportion of the beds allocated to remandees and female prisoners, so this may not always be possible. Operational needs may also see some prisoners from the North and North-West transferred to Risdon Prison for operational reasons.

Transport

Are plans in place to improve the quality of transportation of prisoners from North and North-West courts to the new prison?

The Department is reviewing current transfer and transport practices across the State with a focus on service delivery models that balance and prioritise safety, security and duty of care.

Will the Tasmania Prison Service assist with transport for families visiting prisoners at the new prison?

Keeping in contact with people in the community, including their family and friends, can help to support prisoners while in prison and is also important in helping ex-prisoners to readjust to life in the community when they are released. Currently the Launceston City Mission (assisted by the Tasmania Prison Service) runs a free bus service for visitors to Risdon Prison. The Department will consult with providers to determine an appropriate service to the Northern Regional Prison.

There aren’t many public transport options in the region, will that change?

Part of our consultation around the project includes working with relevant stakeholders on how public transport to and from the area could be improved to allow easier access to the prison for workers and visitors.

Employment

How will people be selected to work in the prison?

The Department of Justice will develop a recruitment strategy that will include opportunities for applicants from the local area and across Tasmania to apply for uniform and non-uniformed positions within the prison.  Information on careers within the Tasmania Prison Service is available on its website.

Register for project updates

If you would like to receive updates on the project’s progress you can register for our mailing list via email to northern.prison@justice.tas.gov.au

Updated: 21st April 2020