The NSW Government decided to permanently close the Berrima Correctional Centre, formally Berrima Gaol, in late 2019 and arranged to transfer the property from the Department of Corrective Services to the NSW Property and Development Office in 2020.
Press reports started to appear in May 2021, that the Government had decided to sell the property and had engaged the Real Estate firm Colliers International to manage the sale.
The Association wrote to our local MP Wendy Tuckerman, on 30 June 2021 expressing the concern that the opportunity to re-purpose the historic and State heritage listed Gaol as a vibrant community asset and significant tourist attraction would be lost if it were sold to developers who offered the Treasury the highest bid so that the site could be redeveloped for luxury housing or hotel.
The Association engaged with the Berrima and the wider Southern Highlands community about developing a ‘vision’ for the adaptive re-use of the site that respected the heritage significance of the site, its location in historic Berrima, its potential of to create sustainable jobs by delivering significant social, economic, and cultural benefits to the wider Southern Highlands community. The re-development of Beechworth Gaol in Victoria with Gaol Tours and ground breaking ACRE youth empowerment programs, and Carriageworks in Sydney with its successful weekly Farmers’ Market provided and arts program provided us with two successful models for a re-purpose Berrima Gaol.
The Associaiton wrote to the Hon Melinda Pavey, Minister for Water, Property and Housing on 30 September 2021, setting out the community’s ‘vision’ for the site. We urged the minister to consider returning the site to the Southern Highlands community in the form of a “community buyback” as a significant social, cultural and tourism asset
The Key elements of the community’s vision are:
- Retain the Gaol’s current internal layout, structure, footprint and as much of the existing fabric by adaptive re-use of the former Berrima Correctional Centre.
- No new development outside the Wall, except for re-purposing the tennis court for parking
- No further subdivision of the site.
- Develop the site as community infrastructure- as a multi-purpose venue to deliver economic, social and cultural benefits for future generations.
- Create local jobs and economic opportunities for new local businesses, youth capacity building programs, and for domestic and international tourism.
- Ensure public access
- By not overdeveloping the site, our vision complies with Wingecarribee Shire Council’s and NSW Heritage Council heritage protection objectives for Berrima.
- Contribute to the Council’s cultural industries strategy -Southern Highlands Inspired, Arts and Culture Strategic Plan 2015-2031.