Ben Jones inside his property at Lavadia where he has started building a new house on land that will now be acquired to build the new jail.
Ben Jones inside his property at Lavadia where he has started building a new house on land that will now be acquired to build the new jail. Adam Hourigan

New jail will wreck Ben's dream

THE SITE selected for the new Grafton Prison was chosen for its 'minimal impact', but for 83-year-old Ben Jones it is a huge blow.

The cattle farmer was shocked when he was told by NSW Government representatives who visited his farm on Monday that the State Government would be acquiring his entire 200ha property off Golden Mile Road in Lavadia, near Pillar Valley.

The bombshell was made worse by the fact he is currently in the final stages of building a house on the cleared property, where he had planned to spend the rest of his days.

Construction of the prison is meant to begin late next year.

"I've spent a lifetime killing trees and tidying it up and it's a picture," Mr Jones told The Daily Examiner yesterday.

"They were only tiling the bathroom this morning. Next thing they want to come in and piss you off; you can go somewhere else and die.

"I doubt whether I'm going to even get in there, but it'll have to be finished because got to pay the builder."

 

Ben Jones outside his new house at Lavadia overlooking the land where the new jail will be built.
Ben Jones outside his new house at Lavadia overlooking the land where the new jail will be built. Adam Hourigan

The house Mr Jones currently lives in, on a property about 10km up the road, frequently floods up to the windowsills.

"I'm going on 84, I don't want to be in flood," he said.

"Now I'll have to go miles more to get cattle out in flood time, and I don't want to be in the business of buying another property and building another house. Twelve months doesn't give me much time to do that anyway"

Mr Jones has already had experience with the State Government buying out his property - 13ha at the bottom of the property has already been acquired as part of the new Pacific Highway route.

He says the land was sold for about $100,000 less than what the valuer had estimated, and doubts he will get a fair deal for his new house, shed and land.

"At my age I've got no way of getting on in the world after this. I don't get a pension, and I don't get any government assistance," he said.

"I pay tax, and I work. It's just not an easy situation. It just gutters you."

The land that is destined to house the new jail at Lavadia in the Pillar Vallley.
The land that is destined to house the new jail at Lavadia in the Pillar Vallley. Adam Hourigan

Minister for Corrections David Elliott said the site selection process was based on an assessment of land within a 40km radius of the Grafton town centre.

The preferred site was chosen due to a range of factors, he said, including current zoning, which permits correctional centre use, the ability to purchase property of adequate size under a single ownership, and proximity to existing infrastructure including water supply and road access.

It was also deemed attractive because the land was grazed with minimal vegetation, not bushfire prone, and had a low potential of Aboriginal heritage.

"A working group was formed to establish criteria for the site selection and to make a recommendation to a Steering Committee chaired by Peter Severin, commissioner of Corrective Services NSW, and consisting of the Department of Premier and Cabinet, NSW Treasury, Infrastructure NSW (Projects NSW) and the Department of Justice, which oversees progress of the project," Mr Elliot said.

"The landowner was contacted as soon as the project team was in a position to do so and negotiations will continue to ensure the owner receives a fair and reasonable market value for the property.

"The new prison is part of a long-term infrastructure plan for the state's correctional system and will create ongoing jobs and investment in the region."



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