People power has prevailed: the state government has scrapped its plans to build a $288 million youth prison in Werribee South.
The youth detention centre has now been earmarked for a 67-hectare site owned by Melbourne Water along Wests Road in Werribee, next to the Werribee tip.
In a press conference this morning, Werribee MP Tim Pallas and youth affairs minister Jenny Mikakos announced the alternative location – which the government has dubbed the Cherry Creek site – stating it meets the “stringent criteria” set out in the original business case.
Ms Mikakos said the Wests Road site was not one of the original locations considered for the youth prison because it was not originally on a government list of surplus land, and was only looked at upon the recommendation of the Wyndham council.
She said the project would still be delivered within the existing timelines and budget.
“Council did put to the government alternative site locations, and in the course of these discussions and examination of alternatives, an alternative site was identified,” Ms Mikakos said.
“We believe we have delivered a very good outcome for this local community, this is a win for the local community and it’s also a win for Victorians, who will be getting a state-of-the-art youth justice facility.”
She said a community advisory group would be set up to give the community input into the design of the facility.
Mr Pallas said the new site would provide “considerable economic opportunity” for Wyndham in the future.
“I think that the process of engagement we’ve had has led to a much better outcome, one that the community can have some satisfaction in,” he said.
Wyndham mayor Henry Barlow said it was a great result for the community.
“We said at the very beginning, we were not against a facility like this, we just didn’t agree that [Hoppers Lane] was the site for it.
“It’s only taken about four weeks to come up with an alternative site… we believe that this site meets all of the state government’s criteria and that, in the future, it will be a great economic boom for this municipality.
“To be able to come up with this solution in such a short period of time goes to the fact that we’re willing, as a community, to work very hard, and that the government was willing to listen.”
Speak Out – Wyndham’s Voice president Lisa Heinrichs and Werribee South Ratepayers Association president Joe Garra said they were thrilled with the result.
Ms Heinrichs dedicated the win to the Wyndham community and people power.
“It’s this community that’s brought around this result,” she said.
“We were always determined that we were going to win this – we didn’t expect to win so soon, but we were always hopeful that the government would see the light and realise that they picked the wrong location.
“[This shows] what can be done when people come together.”
Mr Garra said the Wests Road site was a much better option.
“I’m happy that they were prepared to listen and we’re happy with the … work the council has done behind the scenes, there’s been dozens of people [working] behind the scenes.
“I think the government were surprised by the community reaction [to the Hoppers Lane site], I don’t think they expected that many people to mobilise so quickly, and I’m really proud of the community.”
Lalor MP Joanne Ryan, who was outspoken in her opposition to the original Hoppers Lane site, said she was “incredibly proud that this community and Wyndham City Council, as they have done so many times in the past, stood up for themselves and fought for a favourable outcome.”