Hopkins Correctional Centre site manager Steve Ritchie discusses the prison project with Corrections Minister Andrew McIntosh.ARARAT – Ararat Rural City Council is demanding an urgent meeting with the Premier of Victoria Ted Baillieu following the announcement that the Hopkins Correctional Centre worksite has been shut down and that the Department of Primary Industries Ararat office will close.
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Council at its meeting on Tuesday agreed to write to the Premier requesting an urgent meeting between the Mayor Cr Colin McKenzie and CEO Andrew Evans to find a solution to the Hopkins Correctional Centre delay and identify how local and regional contractors can be paid as matter of urgency; and to determine how the action of closing the DPI and loss of 11 full time positions will affect the long term economic and social impact on the local community.

St Hilliers Ararat Pty Ltd, a member of the Aegis Consortium overseeing the construction of the Hopkins Correctional Centre, was placed into liquidation this week, leaving 400 people without jobs and owing hundreds of thousands of dollars to contractors, many of whom are local.

“I think we’ve had enough of the bad news in this municipality,” Cr Ian Wilson said.

“I really believe we need some urgent intervention by our senior political figure in the state, that being the Premier Mr Baillieu.

“It’s been reported…that many local suppliers have extensive financial exposure to the prison project with one operator reporting exposure in excess of $400,000.

” I don’t believe any business in Ararat can afford to suffer that form of financial loss and I urge the Premier to take it on board and work with all concerned and get a result and get the project back on track and get workers back out there and get the project finished.”

Cr Wilson acknowledged that the joint partners have been very supportive of and have worked closely with the community and a range of organisations and supported the community very strongly over the time they have been working in Ararat.

“But I urge all concerned to work together to get a positive outcome for the community,” he said.

“Enough is enough we don’t want to see any more losses in Ararat.”

Cr Gwenda Allgood said she was ‘really devastated for those people’ who had worked at the prison construction site and indicated she had heard disturbing reports of the amounts of money owed to some contractors.

“I’ve heard $400,000 to two and $300,000 to another one,” she said.

“This community and people within our community can’t sustain that sort of loss.

“This is the thin edge of the wedge, we’ve loss one big business in the last couple of weeks, we’ve got a few others that are just teetering on the brink and we’ve got to stop this rot, I lived through this in 1994 and I don’t want to see it happen again.”

Cr John Cunningham said the two major things impacting on Ararat weren’t impacting because of decisions relating to small government businesses.

“We’ve got a government private project which was put in place, where the government actually employed people to come out and talk to people in our community about gaining work and earning income out at the prison project,” he said.

“The work at the prison might be government private enterprise but it is government sponsored project.

“Over next 18 months (it will take a lot to) recover from what’s happening out there at the prison from the lack of funds going into our community, because we’ve got to remember if an employer isn’t paid that amount of money, whether it’s $300,000 or $400,000, then there’s stress on that employer and employees, there’s a whole range of people who are impacted by this.”

Cr Cunningham said the loss of social capital from our community could not be underestimated.

“Not only do we lose wages, but we’ve got to remember the shops in town that rely on wages, the businesses and those providing services, they are also impacted as well and they are going to go through some hard times as well as a result of this,” he said.

“There will be less money going through the tills

“There will be people who will be put off and this will have an impact on schools, hospitals, major service providers.

“Our government, our state government, they’re responsible for helping us throughout the whole of the state to form and maintain responsible and comprehensive well functioning communities – and it is our government, our state government, that is responsible for doing this to us.”

Council met with Minister for Corrections Andrew McIntosh yesterday.

See page 7 for Council’s reaction to the closure of the Department of Primary Industries.

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