Minister backtracks on reopening Parramatta Gaol

PARRAMATTA jail will not reopen after Corrections Minister David Elliott withdrew his proposal. Picture: Bob Barker Parramatta jail is to remain closed.

The State Government was considering reopening the colonial site to lift pressure from the state’s overcrowded prisons.

Mr Elliott told The Parramatta Advertiser he decided against reopening the jail, which closed in 2011.

“I can’t reconcile myself spending tens of millions of taxpayer dollars reopening the jail, with all the development happening in the area such as the Powerhouse, the light rail, Westmead and … in the CBD,” he said.

It is estimated a refurbishment of the colonial site would cost more than $10 million.

Parramatta state Liberal MP Geoff Lee called it a “big win” for the community.

“Despite the prison overcrowding concerns, it would place a serious impediment on the North Parramatta heritage precinct,” Mr Lee said.

To deal with prisoner numbers, the government has announced it will close Long Bay jail and build a mega jail in Wollondilly in southwest Sydney, to hold up to 5000 prisoners.

North Parramatta Residents Action Group president Suzette Meade said instead of alleviating dangerous overcrowding in prisons, the government was putting prison officers lives at risk by packing prisoners into cells for another three-plus years until the proposed new mega jail was constructed.

“The Fleet St heritage precinct was in no danger from the short-term reopening of the historic Parramatta jail,” Ms Meade said.

“What was under threat was this government’s grubby money grabbing real estate deal to flog off public land,” she said


Legislative Council 9 September 2015 – CITY PLANNING


The Hon. DANIEL MOOKHEY [6.50 p.m.]: Tonight I inform the House about the changes being proposed for the city of Parramatta. Parramatta was the second Australian city built by Arthur Phillip following the arrival of the British to this continent in 1788. Ten months younger than Sydney, Parramatta became the colony’s hub when it became apparent that the lack of arable land near Sydney Cove meant certain starvation for the colony’s 1,000 soldiers, administrators and convicts if they remained rooted to the harbour. Governor Phillip’s choice to relocate the colony’s heart in the west meant that Parramatta was the stage upon which so many of Australia’s most historic episodes were played, including the beginning of agriculture by James Ruse at Experiment Farm; the emergence of Australia’s first export industry, the wool industry, at Elizabeth Farm; the Castle Hill convict rebellion, that is, the march on Parramatta by convicts determined to return to Ireland; the Cataract Gorge massacre ordered by Governor Macquarie from his chambers in George Street, Parramatta; and the Parramatta Female Factory uprising, the site of Australia’s first industrial action when female convicts rioted in response to a cut in rations and poor conditions.

Each of these episodes from Australia’s social history lives on in Parramatta’s streets, parks and buildings. Each side of politics has recognised this. So much of Australia’s social history is entwined in these streets, parks and buildings. These streets, parks and buildings need to be preserved and protected for every Australian. Parramatta has always had to contend with the dreams and occasional flights of fancy of planners, developers, mayors, real estate moguls and bureaucrats. Pleasingly, nary a year goes by without some glossy plan for Parramatta appearing on the front pages of the Sydney Morning Herald. The people of Parramatta are ambitious and it is right that they are. The question is not whether Parramatta’s ambitions should be subordinate to Parramatta’s heritage but how to leverage Parramatta’s heritage in service of its ambitions. We need to decide how to redesign it so that the city’s core is not just the precinct surrounding Parramatta station but also the heritage precincts on the city fringe. We need to decide how to pedestrianise the heritage parks, how to re-purpose the heritage buildings, and how to couple these changes with a plan for expanded urban density so that more people can live close to Parramatta’s core. These are challenges that historic cities like Parramatta have to address.

Cities like Boston City, which answer questions like these correctly, create natural spurs for their growth. Cities like Philadelphia, which answer these questions incorrectly, surrender their comparative advantage in an age where cities are nearly as paramount as nations. This is an age in which cities compete with each other. Parramatta’s answer is imminent. The answer will arrive with the Planning Minister’s decisions about the future of the Cumberland heritage precinct. The Minister will have to decide if Urban Growth’s proposed 30-storey towers will be built in the vicinity of Old Government House and next to the Female Factory. These are sites currently being assessed for World Heritage status—a fitting tribute to buildings so important. It is troubling that the implications of this nominee status have not yet dawned on the Minister for Planning.

Last week in budget estimates, my colleague the Hon. Penny Sharpe asked the Minister if the Cumberland precinct’s potential World Heritage status is being factored into the planning processes that the Minister is responsible for. The Minister could not answer. It is concerning for the people of Parramatta that the Minister responsible for determining the future of one of Australia’s most historic districts is ignorant of how its future is being assessed. It follows many other acts of ignorance and callousness for which this Minister and UrbanGrowth are responsible. Indeed, the mistrust between UrbanGrowth and the people of Parramatta is the reason the people of Parramatta are organising themselves.

The people of Parramatta are forming fine, cross-partisan organisations like the North Parramatta Residents Action Group, led by the redoubtable Suzette Meade. They have been organising petitions, like the 12,000-person petition that will soon be introduced into this place. The people of Parramatta have been partnering with icons like Jack Mundey and unions like the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union [CFMEU] to impose green bans to preserve Parramatta’s heritage, as was announced last week. People like Suzette Meade and unions like the CFMEU should not have to resort to citizen activism in order to have the Minister discharge his duties diligently and they should at least receive a hearing from the member for Parramatta. It is no credit to the Minister, the member for Parramatta or the Government that they have not.

Parramatta War Memorial Swimming Club demands answers about pool relocation

North Parramatta Residents Action Group president Suzette Meade reminded authorities of a landmark case in the Land and Environment Court last year. The Friends of Kind Edward Park won its fight against Newcastle Council to turn a reserve into a function centre on the basis public recreation land must not be developed for a purpose that excludes the public.

“We would caution the proponents that the pool is on crown land which is for public use not commercial or privatisation,” Mrs Meade said.

“A sensible compromise and redesign of stadium footprint could be easily found to avoid expensive legal action.”

NSW Planning Minister Meets With Prince Charles

It was always going to be a big deal – building thousands of new homes in one of the most significant sites of colonial heritage in Australia. And then the British monarchy got involved.

His Royal Highness, the Prince of Wales, has shown a personal interest in a major development project in western Sydney.

The heir to the throne, Prince Charles, met with NSW Planning Minister Rob Stokes in London in February, where particular discussion focused on plans to revamp North Parramatta

prince charles

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Frustration over blocked bid for community to see 3D model


Community activist groups amp up fight to stop Ultimo-based Powerhouse Museum relocation to Parramatta


The  Save the Powerhouse community group based at Ultimo trekked to Parramatta to meet with other action groups taking the State Government to task with grassroots campaigns. READ ARTICLE HERE





Save the Powerhouse joins forces with North Parramatta Residents Action Group

SUN COVERThere was no east versus west cultural divide when an unlikely alliance was formed this week. The lobby group opposed to the Powerhouse Museum relocation to Parramatta has joined forces with the North Parramatta Residents Action Group (NPRAG).

Save the Powerhouse members travelled to Parramatta this week to join Greens MP Jamie Parker and independent Alex Greenwich on a site tour of the historical Fleet Street precinct.

Read full article HERE

Parramatta Jail could be reopened to ease prisoner overcrowding

6af8e32096f140af1887dc4d4a8ee88fOpposition corrections spokesman Guy Zangari said: “Reopening a prison from the 18th century shows how desperate this government has become.”

Former NSW premier Nathan Rees said for the government to consider reopening the jail showed the planning process for the North Parramatta development was inadequate.

“The government should get a grip and have a proper planning process rather than put 4000 units that’s a stone’s throw away from a jail that’s about to reopen,” Mr Rees said

Read the Full Article HERE


NSW government considers reopening Parramatta Jail



Parramatta jail could reopen, five years after the state heritage listed facility closed.  ParrmattaPrison2009The state government will consider reopening the jail to address record numbers of inmates and prison overcrowding.

Opened in 1842, it was the oldest serving correctional centre in Australia.

“The government is considering all options at the moment to address the need for new beds for corrective services,” Parramatta MP Geoff Lee said. “Ultimately, the decision about reopening Parramatta Jail will be guided by a sensible long-term solution that addresses the needs of whole of the community.”

The Deerubbin Aboriginal Land Council claimed ownership of the jail 12 months ago but haven’t revealed their plans for the abandoned site.

North Parramatta Residents Action Group welcomed the protection of the jail’s heritage but reiterated calls to press pause on developing high density residential around the Fleet Street heritage precinct.

“The Premier has an opportunity to be the leader that created a legacy of a world class cultural and arts precinct that will deliver long term jobs and economic growth for western Sydney, instead of just adding Parramatta to his long list of public asset sales in NSW.” president Suzette Meade said. 

“The Premier could show further strong leadership by calling on the federal government to fast track the declaration of the National Heritage Listing of the irreplaceable heritage assets in the precinct.”

Read the Full Article HERE

Battlers unite to save precinct

TWO community groups have come together to ensure Parramatta is protected from overdevelopment.

Jon Hillman, Rob Macqueen, Alice Kershaw, Judith Dunn and Suzette Meade.North Parramatta Residents Action Group (NPRAG) and the Parramatta Female Factory Friends will aim to protect and encourage the appropriate rescue of the Cumberland East Health Precinct in North Parramatta.

The State Government has plans for a massive residential and commercial development, including 2700 apartments, but the two groups don’t agree with the proposal.

NPRAG and Parramatta Female Factory Friends have signed a memorandum of understanding with the “ultimate purpose to save the precinct as a highly significant social, economic and cultural asset for Parramatta, NSW and Australia”.

NPRAG president Suzette Meade said the groups wanted to focus their energies and resources in a more coordinated and effective way.

“We believe our alternative vision for the Cumberland Hospital grounds for a heritage and cultural landscape will ignite Parramatta city on to the world stage,” Ms Meade said.

Parramatta Female Factory Friends president Gay Hendriksen said the two groups had common goals for the preservation and access for the Female Factory.

“Our vision is not for private use but Female Factory as a living museum and national resource centre and associated sites for creative activation determined with the community and accessed by the community,” she said.

A public meeting will be held to discuss the future of the Fleet St Heritage Precinct in North Parramatta on Tuesday, February 16 at Burnside Public School Hall, 6.30pm.