NEW JAIL: Bringing back industry one cell at a time
AS THE first slab was poured at the newly named Clarence Correctional Centre yesterday, the message was one of optimism, borne out of the will of the people of the Clarence to demand their voice was heard.
Six years ago, The Daily Examiner campaigned alongside the people of Grafton, camping out with them at the front of the jail as it was closed and demanding better for the town.
Member for Clarence Chris Gulaptis said this community support played a big part of the revitalisation of the industry now.
"Absolutely. People power can change governments," he said.
"I remember when everyone's bum was dragging on the ground, and now it's the complete opposite, we're basically walking on clouds with the levels of public infrastructure investment in the area.
"There was despair because we'd seen the Telstra call centre close, the abattoir close and then the jail, and now there's a complete turnaround
and there's a world of optimism," Mr Gulaptis said.
"A big part of it was that we were noticed, and also the fact the government has a healthy budget and is investing back in our community."
Mr Gulaptis was joined by Corrective Services Commissioner Peter Severin to watch the first slab poured on-site at Lavadia (for the gatehouse) and said it was exciting to see something tangible spring up from the ground.
"Every single time that I come back here I'll see more and more of it become a reality," Mr Gulaptis said.
The centre will become the primary correctional facility for all operations between the Queensland border in the north, Kempsey in the south-east and Tamworth in the south-west.
Yesterday's concrete marked the ceremonial start of the stage-two works of the new jail's planning application received in December last year.
It covered design, construction and operation. Stage one's early works started in June last year.
With major construction now underway this week, the prison is on track to be completed in mid-2020.
When finished the jail will contain a 1000-bed male maximum security, 300-bed female maximum security, and 400-bed male minimum security.
It is expected to create up to 1100 jobs during construction and 600 jobs once operational, injecting an estimated $560m into the local economy over the next 20 years.