ARARAT - The banks responsible for Ararat's prison expansion project have informed the Victorian Coalition Government they have appointed a new builder.
The Commonwealth, Bendigo and Adelaide Banks have reached an agreement with Brookfield Multiplex for the immediate recommencement of work at the Hopkins Correctional Centre site, with a view to major works progressing in the new year.
Under a new deal reached with the Coalition Government in August, the banks will complete the prison project. In doing so, they have assumed all risk, guaranteeing delivery of the project and providing certainty for both the State of Victoria and the people of Ararat.
Corrections Minister Andrew McIntosh welcomed the banks' appointment of Brookfield Multiplex to continue construction at Ararat.
"This is another welcome step in the rescue of this vital project, which had failed because of Labor's original deficient contract," Mr McIntosh said.
"The Coalition Government rescued Labor's failed project, reaching a new deal which sees the banks guaranteeing delivery of the Ararat prison project and paying validated claims to subcontractors."
The announcement allows Brookfield Multiplex to undertake preliminary work at the site while negotiating a contract to complete construction.
Mr McIntosh said he has been advised 49 claims worth $8.6 million had so far been paid out to subcontractors whose claims had been validated by KordaMentha, an independent third party, and that more payments are imminent. Most of these payments have been made to small sub-contractors in Ararat and across western and central Victoria.
"I again thank the council and people of Ararat for their patience in this matter," Mr McIntosh said.
"I trust they will be as thrilled as I am to hear that a long-awaited re-start on the site is now imminent."
The 350 bed expansion project will add much-needed capacity to the prison system.
This year's State Budget included $670 million for a new 500 bed men's prison at Ravenhall in Melbourne's west, as well as the construction of 395 new beds in existing prisons.
Last week Mr McIntosh announced the first 120 of those new beds would be built at Loddon Prison in Castlemaine, providing more construction and staff jobs in regional Victoria, as well as increased prison capacity.
In July this year Mr McIntosh opened 108 new beds - 54 each at Langi Kal Kal and Dhurringile - which were funded in last year's State Budget.
Earlier this month the Minister opened 84 new beds at Dame Phyllis Frost Centre, Victoria's only maximum security women's prison, while another 85 new beds are scheduled to open at Port Phillip Prison by the end of the year.
The Ararat project is now due for completion in late 2014.