The suburb, on the banks of the Parramatta River, comprises mostly industrial land and is between the Silverwater prison complex and courts at Parramatta.
The new jail is part of Corrective Services’ plans for an extra 5000 prison beds by about 2025. The additional beds will be on top of a multibillion-dollar program over the past four years – which included building Australia’s largest jail near Grafton – to reduce overcrowding in prisons.
A site near the airport at Badgerys Creek is second on the list of preferred locations for the new prison in Greater Sydney, sources say.
A number of sensitive government documents detailing plans for Sydney’s new prison have been completed in the past 18 months ahead of the subcommittee’s deliberations.
They include a residential land value and feasibility report for a prime 32-hectare site occupied by Long Bay jail on Sydney’s coast. Developers have long eyed the site at Malabar.
Corrective Services said “any possible redevelopment” of the site occupied by Long Bay prison would not begin until there was additional correctional capacity in greater Sydney.
A spokeswoman for NSW Corrections Minister Anthony Roberts also said the government had “no current or future plans to redevelop or sell” the Long Bay Correctional Complex and was “committed to delivering on the “Outer Metro Strategy”. She did not elaborate on the strategy.
Labor spokesperson for Parramatta Daniel Mookhey said the plans for a jail threatened to sow further confusion about the government’s intentions for Camellia.
“Camellia residents were told to expect thousands of new apartments, but now they are learning about a secret plan to build a new jail,” he said.
Greens MP and justice spokesman David Shoebridge said the plans for a prison should be made in the clear light of day and “not by a secretive cabinet subcommittee”. “This is a decision that will have decades-long ramifications for the budget, the criminal justice system and urban planning right in the heart of Sydney,” he said.
Corrective Services said it was important any new prison was located in Greater Sydney to ensure inmate access to families, support services and the metropolitan courts.
While NSW’s adult prison population has fallen by 6 per cent to about 12,700 since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Corrective Services forecasts inmate numbers to rise over the next decade due to “policing activity” and population growth.
“Corrective Services NSW has assessed a number of potential sites for a corrections precinct with secure, modern, fit-for-purpose facilities,” it said. “The NSW government is yet to determine the best strategic option to house this growth in Greater Sydney.”
The Department of Communities and Justice refused a request by the Herald to release reports and briefing notes about the plans.
They include a presentation on the “case for a new correctional precinct in Sydney”, a draft Sydney Metropolitan Corrections Centre site analysis report and ministerial briefing notes. One of the briefing notes is about “Cabinet approval of corrections strategy”.
“These documents reveal the locations of sites under consideration for a new correctional precinct and the location of the preferred development,” the department said. “[They] would tend to reveal the position that Ministers [Rob] Stokes and Roberts will take and have been recommended to take on the matter in the cabinet subcommittee.”
Planning Minister Rob Stokes referred questions to Corrective Services.
The business case, site analysis and land value and feasibility reports were commissioned by the justice agency and prepared by NSW Planning and EG Property Group and EY consultants.
“They contain commercial, market-sensitive information which, if released, has the ability to impact urban planning and property prices in the relevant locations,” the Justice Department said.
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Matt O’Sullivan is City Editor at The Sydney Morning Herald.
Tom Rabe is Transport Reporter with The Sydney Morning Herald.