After years of failing to adequately address a number of farmers’ concerns around the $10 billion Melbourne to Brisbane Inland Rail project, the Australian Rail Track Corporation received a letter from lawyers representing NSW Farmers and the CWA last week.
The two peak NSW regional lobby groups have grave concerns about the hydrology modelling of the Inland Rail Project route, with the 300 kilometre stretch of track between Narrabri and Narromine causing most concern as parts of it are flood-prone.
This section of the track is expected to be completed by the end of 2020 with the whole project set to finish in 2025 enabling a 24-hour freight train link between Melbourne and Brisbane.
This section has also been fast-tracked as part of the NSW Government’s COVID-19 Recovery Plan to aid job retention and support the economy.
Alan Jones weighs in
Media commentator Alan Jones has also thrown his weight behind the fight, using his Sky News segment to call the project “hopelessly political” and call for an independent inquiry.
Jones pointed out that the current route impacts more than 300 farm businesses and crosses the Castlereagh River floodplain meaning it stands to either be washed away or act as a levee to prevent water flow.
Parkes MP Mark Coulton was also criticised for not engaging with his community, while federal Labor leader Anthony Albanese was asked why he has been so silent on this issue.
But Nationals leader Michael McCormack copped the most wrath, particularly for cancelling a planned meeting with NSW Farmers’ members last Friday.
“The National Party lost two seats in the last state election in electorates that are embracing this project,” Jones said.
NSW Farmers and CWA concerned
Both NSW Farmers and the CWA of NSW are deeply concerned about a lack of transparency and poor communication between landholders, whose properties the line will cut through.
NSW Farmers’ Association Inland Rail Taskforce chair, Adrian Lyons, says law firm Holding Redlich has been engaged by both NSW Farmers and the CWA Association of NSW to try and elicit a meaningful response from the ARTC.
NSW Farmers has long been calling for transparency about the planned route, with hydrology and flooding, among the key concerns but has become increasingly frustrated by the lack of consultation.
“We have also stressed the need for transparency around the key documents underpinning the proposed route, particularly the hydrology modelling which to date has caused consternation in our members,” Mr Lyons said.
“For a long time we have recommended to NSW Farmers’ members affected by this project not to engage with ARTC and now we’re urging them to seek legal advice in regards to this matter.”
CWA of NSW CEO, Danica Leys, says it is hoped the legal correspondence will help develop a collective of landholders and community members who want to progress advocacy around Inland Rail.
Ms Leys is encouraging any affected landholders to register their interest and join these ongoing advocacy efforts.
Fed up farmers
Narromine farmer, David McBurnie, was shocked when he recently saw a map of the rail line and learned for the first time it would be cutting through his property.
You can view the interview with Prime7 below.
“They presented maps to us and we saw a line there which was going through our property. That was the first that we ever knew about the Inland Rail going through our property,” Mr McBurnie told Prime7.
Another Narromine landholder, Andrew Knope, says the ARTC has not consulted broadly enough in the Narromine area.
“They also didn’t look at topographic maps which clearly indicate that this area is subject to frequent inundation,” Mr Knope told Prime7.
Another farmer, Robert Webb said: “As an individual I am quite distrustful of the integrity of their comment and we have not been given enough opportunity to see clearly what they are about.”