LOOKBACK: How we reported new jail five years ago to the day
TOMORROW The Daily Examiner print edition will trumpet the opening for the new Grafton jail.
A look back in history shows that exactly five years to the day, our front page headline trumpeted its beginnings, announcing the project.
It was framed as announcement the community had waited three years to hear, with old front pages decrying the closing of the old jail, with words such as "the heart ripped out of Grafton", and an admission from the local member that he had "stuffed up."
And while the timeframe of 2019 has been slightly overstepped, the same messages are still ringing through now.
600 BED JAIL TO BE BUILT
A NEW 600-bed jail to be built in Grafton by 2019 will provide a sustainable industry for the region after the "sugar hit" of bridge and highway construction wears off after 2020, says the Member for Clarence, Chris Gulaptis.
An excited Mr Gulaptis revealed the State Government will stump up $20 million over four years in a private/public partnership to build and run the new jail.
The money is part of a record $1.2 billion spend on the prison system in the NSW Budget 2015-16.
Mr Gulaptis said the 100 jobs a new jail will bring to Grafton will help underpin the local economy as Grafton finds its identity after the highway bypass is complete.
"Grafton is a jail town, so what better place to have a new jail than where the community is happy to have it," he said.
"Country towns are crying out for these sorts of jobs, long term and high paying that will have a flow-on effect right through the economy."
He said the public/private model had been used successfully in other projects, like toll roads.
"It's what you have to do when you don't have the ready cash to do it all yourself," Mr Gulaptis said.
Mr Gulaptis did not reveal when the decision was made, but said he had been encouraged by the visit of two ministers to the region in the past six months.
"They were definitely making the right noises," he said. "They could see the current jail was old and not going to provide the numbers needed looking into the future."
The Deputy Premier and Minister for Justice and Police Troy Grant and Minister for Corrections David Elliott said the new jail at Grafton and an expansion at Parklea Prison would deliver 1000 new prison beds.
Mr Grant said the prison would be ideally placed to meet demand for greater corrective services capacity in northern NSW.
"The NSW Liberals and Nationals Government is committed to investing in the Grafton region which has been part of our corrections system for more than a 100 years,'' Mr Grant said.
"This modern 600-bed new facility will be built to contemporary standards, making it safe and secure for staff and inmates.
"Clarence MP Chris Gulaptis has fought tirelessly to secure a strong NSW Government commitment to corrections in Grafton."
Mr Elliott said the investment is part of a broader plan to improve the efficiency and sustainability of the NSW prison system.
"The Budget includes funding over three years for a newly constructed addition to allow Parklea to house another 400 inmates by 2018," Mr Elliott said.
"These projects will allow Corrective Services NSW to safely and securely manage an additional 1000 prisoners."
Mr Gulaptis said a new Grafton jail was a shot in the arm for the Clarence Valley.
"This is terrific news for Grafton because it will provide jobs throughout the construction phase, a sustained workforce into the future and will help to underpin the economy of the Clarence Valley," he said.
The site for the new jail has not been decided, although it is understood the government is looking for a greenfield site.
The existing jail will continue to operate while the new prison is being constructed.