8 Apr 2018
Sunday Herald Sun, Melbourne
By James Dowling and Alex White
Endangered animals, plants cast shadow over jail AN endangered lizard has thrown a $3 million spanner in the works to build Victoria's new youth prison.
The striped legless lizard has been discovered in large quantities on grassland set to house the new juvenile supermax centre, to be built at Cherry Creek, west of Werribee.
An environment study has also found traces of rare volcanic grass, swamp weed and the red-chested button-quail. Millions will now be spent to "offset" loss of native habit as mandated under environmental laws.
The biostudy also searched for the rare golden sun moth, but they are yet to be found in great quantities.
The Cherry Creek site, which is largely grasslands once owned by Melbourne Water, is the government's second choice for the facility after it was forced to rethink its first Werribee location following fierce community opposition.
The Biosis study found 19 rare or threatened species on the site, including grass, swamp vegetations, native weeds and moths.
But it was the large quantities of the red-chested button-quail, the striped legless lizard, large-headed fireweed and the pale swamp everlasting that could cost taxpayers millions.
Some of the endangered plants could be offset by planting native vegetation at neighbouring Melbourne Water sites.
But the study has warned that it is likely "offsets would need to be secured at one or more offset sites further afield", which would "elevate costs" beyond the $3 million estimate.
Surveys for button wrinklewort, clover glycine, matted flax-lily and golden sun moth are expected to be completed soon. If those species are found in great numbers, it might require even more expense.
The $250 million juvenile supermax complex was approved after a series of riots at youth justice centres in Parkville and Malmsbury showed they were not fit for purpose.
Opposition youth and families spokeswoman Georgie Crozier said the government had botched the project.
"The Andrews Government is so hopeless when it comes to youth justice, they can't even build a new jail without botching it and costing taxpayers millions of dollars," Ms Crozier said.
"It's no wonder youth gangs are out of control under Daniel Andrews when he can't even get the basics right of building a new youth jail."
A spokesman for the Department of Justice and Regulation said the usual processes for environmental assessments had been followed.
"An allowance for environment offsets is included in the $288 million budget for the Cherry Creek Youth Justice Centre development.
The project's timeline allows for environmental assessments and offsets, and is on track to become operational in 2021," they said.
The striped legless lizard and red chested button-quail may add to the cost of a new prison, pictured above.
The HERALD SUN link is HERE
|Tags: Letters to the Editor|