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Thursday, February 09, 2006

Robertson under threat - part 1 - the proposed gaol

The "Nature of Robertson" is under threat this week from two entirely separate arms of the NSW State Government - the Department of Correctional Services and the Sydney Catchment Authority. I shall deal (again) with the gaol issue today, and with the threat to suck dry the Kangaloon Aquifer tomorrow.

You may already have read about the proposal for a gaol in the Robertson area. Quite simply, to build a gaol of the size which is envisioned, is the equivalent f building a whole new township, of the size of Robertson. That is not appropriate, and is not acceptable within the Local Environment Plan for the Wingecarribee Shire, or the specific Development Control Plan for Robertson. These are formal planning instruments, and cannot simply be ignored by Council, or its employees.

Photo: The NSW Minister inspecting the Junee Correctional Facility. March 2005 Photo- Wagga Wagga Daily Advertiser.

The Robertson area simply does not have the infrastructure to cope with that level of population increase. Everything would need to be upgraded to meet the needs of a whole new prison township.

Electricity? We have many, many powerlines crossing the district. However, they are running at near their capacity, and the power they transmit is dedicated to other areas (Wollongong, Shell Harbour, etc?) already. The Robertson area, on the edge of the escarpment is a high-wind zone. As such it is subject to frequent power "outages" - sometimes for as long as 36 hours at a time. That would create a serious threat to the electronic security systems on which a high-tech gaol is based. Has a dedicated, "fail-safe" electricity supply for the gaol/township been costed?

Sewerage? Sewerage for Robertson is non-existent. Plans for a Sewerage System have been debated for years, and plans have been drawn up, but it has not yet been funded. How can a separate township (the gaol) the size of Robertson can be proposed overnight, without consideration of its sewerage needs? It is an insult to the local residents to "debate" for years whether or not the State and the Shire Council can afford a sewerage system for Robertson, yet to "presume" that a commercial enterprise, such as a gaol, can have a sewerage system built for it, without any problems.

Pollution risks: The supposed location for the proposed gaol, on the flat part of Jamberoo Road, is in the headwaters of the Kangaroo Valley. Pollution risks in that area are extreme, as it is on shallow soil, over a nearly flat Sandstone rock plateau, which is very poorly drained. Furthermore, it is in close proximity to a major scenic attraction (Carrington Falls) as well as the popular swimming points at Blue Pool and Nellie's Glen, and the pool just above the Falls themselves. Furthermore, this is the headwaters of the catchment for the Tallawa Dam from which both Nowra and Sydney take water. Such a large population centre would require a "fail-safe" sewage treatment facility. Has this been costed?

Roads? The Macquarie Pass is a dangerous road at the best of times. It is one of the heaviest fog-bound parts of the State. It is routinely closed due to accidents on the road. The Jamberoo Road is already classed as a dangerous road, not suitable for trucks and buses. It was the scene of a multiple fatality accident last year, involving a tourist bus. So road access is sub-standard to say the least

Hospital services? Non-existent in the local area. Bowral is the nearest - 30 minutes drive away. That is a long time in an emergency situation.

Integration with the community? I find it intriguing that the Junee Correctional Facility claims on its website to be an active part of the local community. But that the Junee Shire Council makes no mention of the prison on its website.

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