Lockyer Valley Regional Council Mayor Tanya Milligan at the sod turning of stage two of the Southern Queensland Correctional Precinct.
Lockyer Valley Regional Council Mayor Tanya Milligan at the sod turning of stage two of the Southern Queensland Correctional Precinct.

1000+ JOBS: $650m prison could be ‘life-changer’ for region

QUEENSLAND’s salad bowl will reap huge rewards from a giant $653 million prison being built in the region according to Lockyer Valley Mayor Tanya Milligan, who said it could “turn the economic tide” after a particularly difficult 12 months.

About 500 jobs will need to be filled to man the new 1000-bed men’s prison just north of Gatton when it is operational.

Construction is expected to be finished in late 2023 with about 900 workers on site during peak periods.

Sod turning of stage two of the Southern Queensland Correctional Precinct on Thursday.
Sod turning of stage two of the Southern Queensland Correctional Precinct on Thursday.

Both Corrective Services Minister Mark Ryan and Cr Milligan talked up the benefits of the second stage of the Southern Queensland Correctional Precinct during an official sod turning ceremony on Thursday morning.

It will be co-located with a 300-bed women’s prison built in 2012 at rural Spring Creek.

The precinct is just under 20 minutes from Gatton with the first stage, the Southern Queensland Correctional Centre, the last prison to be built in Queensland.

The new facility is being constructed to add more beds to the already overcrowded Queensland prison system.

It will adopt a ‘health and rehabilitation’ operating model with ‘enhanced’ mental health and drug and alcohol rehabilitation services for prisoners, with a focus on addressing the ice epidemic.

“This new centre will be a modern, purpose-built facility with a specific focus on rehabilitation to reduce recidivism rates and keep the Queensland community safe,” Mr Ryan said.

“This will add correctional capacity to our network.

“(It’s a) therapeutic operating model focus.

“We will have mental health supports here, we will have substance addiction supports here (and) we will have complex behavioural supports here.

“This capacity coming online is really important not only for managing capacity constraints but also providing that opportunity to get rehabilitation to people more directly.

“That therapeutic approach will allow us to have targeted measures around people’s complex needs around substance addiction (and) around mental health.”

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On July 1 the State Government will take over operation of the women’s prison from private operators Serco.

It is the last prison in the state being run by a private operator.

“This is quite historic,” Mr Ryan said.

“It’s the first jurisdiction in Australia and one of the only in the world to convert all of our private prisons back into public operation.”

Mr Ryan said John Holland, which was awarded the contract to deliver the facility, had committed to “maximising local economic benefit”.

The company has set a target to involve 120 apprentices, 33 trainees, 16 undergraduates, five graduates and two cadets in the construction process.

It has also set a three per cent Indigenous employment target.

John Holland project manager Simon Hughes told a local business breakfast last month there was a target of 50 per cent of procurement to come from a 50 kilometre radius.

The company will award more than 120 “trade packages” across the life of the project to local businesses.

“We’re estimating that 95 per cent of all work on this project will fit within the Queensland Government’s buy local Queensland procurement policy,” Mr Ryan said.

“(That) means local business (and) local people have more opportunity to get the economic benefit from a project like this.”

Queensland Corrective Services Commissioner Peter Martin said there was “great demand” for more infrastructure to mange Queensland’s prison population, which sits at about 9800.

“A therapeutic approach to reducing recidivism will be reinforced at this new correctional centre, with specialist drug and alcohol services, health and rehabilitation services onsite,” he said.

“This infrastructure is necessary to provide not only for the complexities of that prisoner population, but importantly what it does is give us a fighting chance to get really good outcomes.

Southern Queensland Correctional Precinct is already home to a 300-bed women’s prison.
Southern Queensland Correctional Precinct is already home to a 300-bed women’s prison.

“We’ve pulled together the best that we can find internationally that tells us what we need to build in terms of infrastructure to set the prisoner population up for success.”

John Holland has worked on the construction and redevelopment of other correctional facilities in New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania.

CEO Joe Barr said the local project would draw upon industry-leading health and rehabilitation models the company delivered in its recent construction of the Clarence Correctional Centre and Ravenhall Correctional Centre.

The 220,00m2 Lockyer Valley site will ultimately feature 33 buildings.

Cr Milligan said the benefits of the project would be widely felt not only due to the number of jobs it will create but the opportunities for local businesses to supply the centre.

“This project has the potential to change lives, bring our community together and help turn the economic tide for our region through job creation and business opportunity,” she said.

“Queensland Government policy means local companies will be engaged wherever possible, and there will be a strong focus on opportunities for apprentices and trainees.”

Cr Milligan was a Laidley councillor prior to amalgamation when discussions started about stage one of the precinct.

It went to Gatton before the two councils formed Lockyer Valley Regional Council in 2008.

The council was able to secure part State Government funding for the Lockyer Valley Cultural Centre, the Lockyer Valley Aquatic Centre and the future relocation of the Gatton Showgrounds as part of the original prison deal.

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“At Laidley some of us wanted it, some of us didn’t,” she said.

“Gatton got it.

“They were real tangible benefits.

“Over the three year build (those working on site) will be coming and going and shopping locally.

“When the facility opens … everyone has got to eat.

“I think it’s really momentous. My community is well aware of what’s happening out here.”

Cr Milligan said the new prison was just one of several projects now underway in the region with most of that activity happening in booming Plainland.

Sophia College opened earlier this year, a new Bunnings warehouse is under construction and work on an Aldi supermarket is set to start soon.

“That’s a really positive message for anyone outside the region,” she said.

“There’s a real buzz, a real hum and real positivity.”

Read more stories by Lachlan McIvor here.