Raising the BARR – Week ending 4 November 2016

The Cessnock Gaol Extension Insult to The Community

The proposed extension to the Cessnock Gaol has received mixed responses.  In essence it will take the capacity from its current 800, to a whopping 1,800. That is 1,000 extra beds.  The size, scale and scope of the build is huge, and it is set to change from the existing 1 single gaol, into a future of 3 separate gaols.

In all of the debate and argument on this topic, it is essential to remember that it was the decision by the Government to change the planning rules of NSW on the Friday, and then announce the gaol expansion on the Sunday.  Coincidence?  Definitely not!  Under the “old” planning rules, the Government would have had to go through a DA planning process, with Council, just the same as Mum’s and Dad’s building a house or starting a small business would have to.  Under the “new” rules, no such DA plan is required.  Now think through that – let’s take the example of traffic impact; the new gaol which will employ 450 people and receive hundreds of visitors can just about ignore it completely; the Mum and Dad (or Postie Bike Grand Prix) would have to address it thoroughly.

So the community were invited to participate in a consultation process.  More than 160 people took the time to write a submission.  Hundreds turned out to a community meeting.  The Government department are saying that they have “listened” to the concerns and that the community have been “heard”.  But the net result is no real change to the original plan.  Nothing.  Zero.  Zip.  Certainly, for all of the issues outside of the fence;  Police, Hospital, social issues, traffic, etc – these are all concerns that are apparently figments of our imagination.  Obviously the Government Departments have not read their own reports.  I have!  And I can say categorically, emphatically, that these issues are incredibly important and under the old planning rules, would have had to be addressed by the gaol expansion development.  But under the new rules, arrogance and disregard is king!

I hope that plenty of angry and frustrated residents turned up to next Tuesday night’s (November 15) information session, 4pm-7pm, at the gaol, to vent to the Government representatives.  You haven’t been heard yet, so don’t miss your chance.