The final photo of Grafton Jail staff after the picket line disbanded on day six of the Grafton jail community picket line in 2012.
The final photo of Grafton Jail staff after the picket line disbanded on day six of the Grafton jail community picket line in 2012. Debrah Novak

Community action key to getting new jail

THE Grafton Chamber of Commerce has welcomed the announcement by the Member for Clarence Chris Gulaptis to open a new Grafton jail by 2019.

The announcement included details of some 100 new jobs that will be created to work in the new complex.

The Grafton Chamber of Commerce President Phil Belletty said the flow on effect to the community is considerable during and after the construction phase with families moving into the area impacting on everything from schools to retail businesses and it goes further with a considerable supply chain for services and commodities needed to support the ongoing operations of the facility, not just staffing.

"It just proves that if the community works together politicians listen," he said.

"The Grafton Chamber of Commerce has continually lobbied politicians of all persuasions to review the 2012 decision but also to look at the future and provide sustainable opportunities for our region's growth.

"The hard work of Chris Gulaptis, the Grafton Chamber of Commerce, NSW Business Chamber and local government has finally paid off.

"The jail announcement combined with the Bypass and new bridge has injected a level of confidence in the community not seen for many years.

"As a community we need to work together and build the skills in the region (both business and individual employees) to take advantage of these opportunities which are now not just addressing the short term but the longer term.

"We need to ensure that our hospitality, retail, accommodation etc sectors are equipped to cater for this growth, which could be upon us in a relatively short period of time. 

"The Chamber is also looking at the feasibility of other long term initiates like a new university, transport /freight hub linking not just north south but westward and many other initiatives which will form part of a strategic development plan for the region."

Meanwhile local union representatives say the announcement that a new jail will be built proves the State Government's 2012 move to close Grafton jail was wrong.

Moves towards re-establishing prison capacity in Grafton show the strong community and union campaign has continued to be effective in making the State Government listen, Clarence Valley Community Unions said.

"In 2012 Clarence Valley Community Unions campaigned alongside community organisations, local businesses, and the Public Service Association representing Grafton jail workers in a massive local campaign which was heard loud and clear in Sydney and shook the Government at the time," spokesman for Clarence Valley Community Unions Tony King said.

"O'Farrell and Stoner got it wrong in 2012 when they closed our gaol in the face of such community opposition. 

"This was acknowledged at the time by local state member Chris Gulaptis, the then federal MP Janelle Saffin along with the Mayor and local councillors.

"It is a good sign that through their work with the Grafton community the State Government also now acknowledges this error."

CV Community Unions said it was concerned over the proposal that the new facility be privately operated.

"The preference should be for a publicly run jail, starting with the reopening of the capacity in the existing facility at Grafton.  200 beds in Grafton jail can be made available right now," Mr King said.

"We want any newly built facility to be publicly owned and run.  It is not desirable or appropriate for parts of the justice system to be outsourced to private companies.

"The community will continue to campaign for the existing Grafton jail to be reopened and for it to be publicly owned and operated."



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