THE federal government says it will form a community consultative committee to provide feedback from affected parties on the controversial Queensland section of the Melbourne to Brisbane inland rail.
Despite widespread anger among potentially affected landholders across the Condamine floodplain, the Border to Gowrie Community Consultative Committee is claimed to be new vehicle to provide feedback from landholders, businesses and residents.
The formation of the consultative committee was made as a part of federal government’s decision on the preferred corridor for the Yelarbon and Gowrie section of the Inland Rail project.
The route will see the inland rail head from Yelarbon to Millmerran before crossing 16km of some of Queensland most productive agricultural land.
Before construction can begin, the federal government will require the permission of the state government to construct the rail system outside existing corridors. It is estimated it will be nine to 10 years before the Queensland section of the inland rail project was in operation.
Infrastructure Minister Darren Chester said the decision send the inland land through the heart of the agriculturally important Condamine floodplain was not taken lightly.
“This decision was based on rigorous technical analysis and consultation with community and industry representatives,” Mr Chester said.
“In addition, Bruce Wilson AM, chair of the Yelarbon to Gowrie Project Reference Group (PRG), provided me with his independent views.”
However, much of the landholder criticism of the process to date stems from the handling of the PRG under the former senior public servant’s supervision.
Queensland Farmers Federation president Stuart Armitage quit the group in protest earlier in the year, saying it was structured from the outset to ensure the inland rail would proceed on the preferred route across the Condamine floodplain.
In addition, there is ongoing criticism that the report and the conclusions of that report presented by the PRG chaired by Mr Wilson have not been sighted by the PRG members.
“All options present challenges but it is my view, based on the available information, that the corridor via Wellcamp and Charlton is the right decision,” Mr Chester said.
“The government has chosen this route because: as much as possible it uses existing rail corridors; it goes past Wellcamp Airport, which didn’t exist in 2010 when the original route was considered; and it is significantly more economically viable option than the alternative routes.
“The Inland Rail project will generate billions of dollars in economic growth, create 16,000 direct and indirect jobs during construction and will make our roads safer by transferring freight from thousands of trucks to rail.
“I acknowledge there will be impacts to those living and working on or near the preferred route. The government will work with the communities on the preferred route to minimise the impacts and maximise the benefits.”
Accurate, and more important comparable, costings appear to difficult to determine.
Mr Chester said the final design will be subject to an extensive state government planning and approvals process, which would be subject to questions about technical and environmental requirements.
“I understand that people have concerns about the impacts of the rail line on the floodplain, and I am confident that by using the best engineering minds in Australia we will ensure that the effects are minimised,” Mr Chester said.
Inland Rail described as a once-in-a-generation project, and the Australian Government committed an additional $8.4 billion in the 2017-18 budget to its delivery. More than half of this investment will be spent in Queensland. It is claimed that Inland Rail would contribute an extra $2b to the Toowoomba and Darling Downs economy.