CLARENCE Valley businesses have welcomed the opportunity to join in the planning for the new Grafton jail.

More than 50 local businesses registered to be part of a forum at Grafton TAFE where the three short-listed consortia for the jail contract discussed the early stages of their bid with local businesses.

Judging from the dress of the group at the TAFE's Terrace Restaurant, where fluoro vests and suits mingled, a good cross section of local business is looking to benefit from the project.

The forum was the result of a partnership between Clarence Valley Council, the TAFE and the Grafton Chamber of Commerce.

It organised the three consortia: GEO Consortium, Greater Futures Partnership and Northern Pathways Partnership, to make presentations to local business people.

The overseer of jail construction is Infrastructure NSW and its project director of the New Grafton Correctional Centre, Greg Lake, welcomed people to the forum.

Mr Lake said the forum would benefit local business and the consortia as they prepared their bids for submission in November.

"The advantage to the project is that we get to send a message to the three bidders that we are deadly serious about them investing in the local community," he said.

"The advantage for the local community is it gives them more and more information regarding the solutions that these three groups are coming up with to try to deliver the project.

"The more dialogue there is about how people can get involved, as far as I'm concerned, the better."

Members of the local business community grabbed the chance to learn how they can benefit from the construction and operation of the new Grafton jail at a forum at Grafton TAFE on Wednesday night.
Members of the local business community grabbed the chance to learn how they can benefit from the construction and operation of the new Grafton jail at a forum at Grafton TAFE on Wednesday night. Tim Howard

Mr Lake said the bidders would know Infrastructure NSW was serious about community involvement, but it was better for the bidders to hear it straight from the community.

"So these opportunities for them to listen and understand the concerns are 50 times better than anything I can give them trying to speak on behalf of Grafton," he said.

Mr Lake said the government was not going to allow the winning tender to merely warehouse prisoners in the new jail.

"There is a view out there that the private operator somehow benefits from keeping more people in," he said.

"There are commercial arrangements we've got with these guys to incentivise them to make sure people don't come back.

"A better way to look at it is the State Government is not just buying the building, the prison itself and the operator.

"We're buying the outcome."

Mr Lake said the three bidding groups would be using the information they gathered from the forum to put into their bids.

"We're telling them what we expect, but we're not telling them how to do it," he said.

"They will be using what they've learned tonight to put together their bids."

He said the bids closed in November and the winner would be announced in mid-2017.

Construction should begin late in 2017.



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