Dudgeon Point from Darymple Bay.
Dudgeon Point from Darymple Bay. Lee Constable

Case to build new 1000-bed prison in Mackay region

EXCLUSIVE: A long-standing proposal for a jail at Dudgeon Point has come back into the spotlight in the wake of an over-exhausted state prison system.

Mackay/Whitsundays UDIA chief Mark McGrath, who has been a proponent of the development for the past three years, said the North Queensland Bulk Ports-owned land just south of Mackay was "effectively sterile land unless the State Government can think of something new to put on that site".

However, he was concerned the 1000-bed facility was not even on the Minister's radar, despite a state-wide near 2000 surplus of detainees.

"Increasing the public service in Mackay has been an issue that has been strongly advocated for many years," Mr McGrath said.

"The prison that they built in Bundaberg really helped stimulate them with all the services to go into it.

"There's such a massive gap on the Queensland Coast for corrective facilities, it just makes sense to build a new greenfield facility."

The Minister's office confirmed they had no intention of considering the prison, despite tipping money into expanding Capricornia Correctional Centre in Rockhampton.

Mr McGrath estimates the cost of a new prison at $500million for 1000 beds; however, the expansion in Rockhampton will create around 250 more beds for $200million.

"They've got to build 1000 beds in Queensland somewhere over the next decade - it's a growing industry," he said.

"It provides a vital community service, it provides jobs and we have the land to do it on, we can boost the public service workforce which is important for any local economy."

The idea is backed by Assistant Minister for State Development and Member for Mackay Julieanne Gilbert and Dawson MP George Christensen.

"We do know our jails are full, they can't cope sadly with the demand that's put upon them, and at some point down the track there will need to be a new correctional facility built that's put upon them," Mr Christensen said.

"However, I'm always well aware of the impact on local communities. For the region, if we were to have a facility like that the employment contracting opportunities in terms of linen and catering."

Mr Christensen added that the project would need to be addressed with great care, and in conjunction with residents and stakeholders.

"We always need to be mindful of their concerns when you're putting a facility such as a prison into a location," he said.

Mr Ryan remained firm that State Government will whittle down detainee numbers despite the 2000-odd surplus.

"The Government is actively working to ease the pressure in Queensland's prisons, committing $265 million over six years towards ground-breaking reforms of Queensland's probation and parole system," he said.

"We have dedicated extra funds to expand capacity at Brisbane Women's Correctional Centre by 26 cells and 52 beds and Borallon Training and Correctional Centre by 244 cells and 488 beds."



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