by Tim Howard
THE winning consortium to build the new Grafton jail has promised it will provide a $560 million boost to the economy over the next 20 years.
The jail will house 1700 prisoners.
It will create 1100 construction jobs and another 600 permanent jobs.
The winning bidder, Northern Pathways consortium, is made up of a combination of Serco, John Laing, John Holland and Macquarie Capital and is a blend of prison management and construction expertise and private/public partnerships.
Speaking at a press conference at Grafton's Memorial Park, Serco Australia chief executive officer Mark Irwin said the project would bring significant long-term benefits to Grafton and the Northern Rivers.
"We are looking forward to working with the people and businesses, as well as community and not-for-profit organisations, in and around Grafton to build and operate this unique centre as part of the community," Mr Irwin said.
"Our goal is to shape the pathway of every inmate in our care to give them the best chance at becoming responsible citizens again.
"We will do this in a humane and decent setting, where inmates will undertake inclusive rehabilitation and reintegration programs, vocational education and training focused on in-demand skills to prepare them for real work."
John Holland chief executive officer Joe Barr said his company had extensive experience in the construction of correctional facilities.
"We successfully delivered projects such as Cessnock Correctional Centre in NSW and Risdon Prison Complex in Tasmania," Mr Barr said.
"We will have training programs in place to recruit and train local people, so they can get employment not only in the construction phase, but in operations as well."
John Laing chief executive officer Olivier Brousse said his company was glad to have the opportunity to invest in this ambitious project that was not only about delivering and maintaining a building, but more importantly about making a positive impact on people via rehabilitation programs.
"This project shows how private investors can commit to helping public authorities solve problems and improve the delivery of public services," Mr Brousse said
Member for Clarence Chris Gulaptis said the new jail to be built at Lavadia, 12.5km south east of Grafton, will be the largest in Australia. He said Northern Pathways would manage the jail for 20 years from its scheduled completion date in 2020.
Mr Gulaptis rated the new jail as a more important infrastructure project than either the Woolgoolga to Ballina Pacific Hwy upgrade or the second bridge at Grafton.
"While I won't downplay the importance of those projects, they won't provide the long-term growth those 600 jobs will bring to the city," Mr Gulaptis said.
As well as the prison jobs, Mr Gulaptis said there was room for related industries to operate near the jail, opening up the possibility of an industrial hub around the jail.
He also said the influx of prisoners would prompt an upgrade of the hospital to cope with the influx of "more serious" health issues a prison brings with it.
He said the decision would be a turning point in the development of Grafton and the Valley as a whole.
"It's a chance for the region to really move ahead," Mr Gulaptis said.
"It's fair to say you don't need a PhD to be a prison officer.
"But the jobs are good paying ones and it will give their kids a chance to go to uni and get a PhD."