23 August, 2021
Darling Downs Inland Rail route condemned
Darling Downs farming families whose livelihoods are under threat from a flawed plan to build Inland Rail on the Condamine River floodplain near Millmerran say they have been vindicated by the scathing findings of an all-party Senate Committee investigation and look forward to meeting with Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce this month.
Millmerran Rail Group (MRG) Chairman and local farmer Wes Judd said the Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee had listened to the concerns of local landholders, their families and community members and have condemned the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) plans and approach.
The Committee’s first hearing was attended by hundreds of people in Millmerran on 29 January 2020.
“The stupidity of this plan and the arrogance of the ARTC has united politicians from the LNP, Labor and One Nation,” Mr Judd said.
“Few things can unite all sides of politics, but the anger with ARTC has done it.
“We thank all the Senators for listening and vindicating our fight.
“It’s now up to ARTC to change its flawed, condemned plans,” Mr Judd said.
Mr Judd said the MRG would be asking for:
- ARTC to withdraw its draft Environmental Impact Statement for the NSW Border to Gowrie (B2G) section of Inland Rail
- The Australian Government to direct ARTC to conduct a revised business case to include alternative routes west of Millmerran as recommended by the Senate Committee
- ARTC to cease and desist plans to acquire land for its flawed route
- The Queensland Government to maintain its commitment to not compulsorily acquire land for the Inland Rail route until it had been approved through an EIS process and the Queensland Government was satisfied affected landholders were genuinely consulted.
The Senate Committee report, Inland Rail: derailed from the start, stated on pages 124 to 126 that:
“The committee is of the view that the ARTC has not adequately considered the concerns of local residents regarding the chosen alignment and their proposed solutions.
“For this reason, the committee calls for the revised business case to direct the ARTC to consider the concerns of local residents along the B2G project, including consideration of alternative routes to the west of Millmerran.
“The committee commends the work of those local community groups who have engaged a private consultant, at personal expense, to independently review the ARTC’s modelling and substantiate the concerns of local residents, landholders and businesses.
“Had this project been managed differently, then the Australian Government would have integrated an independent panel from the outset to ensure the accuracy of flood modelling and floodplain reference design features.
“The concern about the ARTC’s flood and hydrology modelling has been validated and further fuelled by the independent panel’s draft report that has identified a number of issues, many of which are highly significant.
“The committee is troubled by the independent panel’s comment that some landholders may not be aware of their increased flood risk due to erroneous flood modelling.
“A further concern held by the committee is whether the findings of the independent panel will be adequately integrated into the EIS processes and the final design of Inland Rail.
“The committee notes that the EIS process has continued in accordance with its own timeline, despite the establishment of an independent panel.
“The ARTC and Australian Government have sought to reassure the committee and local communities that the independent panel’s findings will be integrated into the Inland Rail flood modelling and design.
“However, the committee questions the adequacy of this integration process given the independent panel’s final reports are not due until the end of 2021.
“It is vital that flood modelling and the design of Inland Rail’s crossing of floodplains accurately reflects the possibility of flood events and does not amplify the pre-existing risk factors already faced by communities, land-holders and local businesses.
“To do this effectively, it is imperative that the ARTC integrates all recommendations made by the independent panel’s findings into its floodplain modelling and projects’ draft EIS, and to apply the panel’s findings to all floodplain modelling undertaken across the Inland Rail project.”
Mr Judd said Deputy Prime Minister and new Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Regional Development Barnaby Joyce had already confirmed a meeting with Millmerran Rail Group to discuss alternatives to the current, flawed route.
“We have to thank the tireless representations from our local Federal Member David Littleproud and local State Member James Lister for highlighting our serious concerns about the flawed route and the losses it will cause to farming families, their staff and suppliers and the risks it will create for the local communities,” Mr Judd said.
“The Deputy Prime Minister has been very responsive to our concerns.
“He is listening to us, and we believe we will be acting for us.”
“Like the Deputy Prime Minister, we want Inland Rail to support jobs in agriculture, not destroy them.
“The fact is the current Inland Rail route will take more jobs from the Millmerran district than it will deliver.”
The meeting with the Deputy Prime Minister is due to be held later this month.
Mr Judd said it was critical for the Queensland Government to maintain its commitment to not compulsorily acquire land for the Inland Rail route until it had been approved through an EIS process and the Queensland Government was satisfied affected landholders were genuinely consulted.
“Queensland Transport and Main Roads Minister Mark Bailey made that commitment to James Lister on behalf of landholders in his electorate.
“We appreciate the commitment, and the Senate Committee has concluded landholders have not been genuinely consulted by ARTC or on the project,” Mr Judd said.
In terms of consultation, the Senate Committee concluded on page 100 that, “This inquiry has revealed significant shortcomings in the ARTC’s capacity to meaningfully engage with communities and landholders along the proposed alignment of Inland Rail.
This failure has significantly undermined public trust in the ARTC and its management of Australia’s largest rail infrastructure project.”
To read more of the Senate Committee report visit www.aph.gov.au