PRESSURE is building after more than 200 farmers and other community members protested in Brisbane on Tuesday over what they say is a flawed Inland Rail route across the Condamine River floodplain.
The protest was led by floodplainfarmer and Millmerran Rail Group chairman Wes Judd, who called on the federal National Party to immediately rule out the proposed route.
Landholders say they want the government to develop an alternative route with less impact. Those alternatives include redeveloping the existing rail corridor passing near Warwick, a route through the Felton Valley, and a low impact route mostly through forest country west of Millmerran.
The protesting group was addressed by federal opposition leader Anthony Albanese after marching from the Botanic Gardens to Waterfront Place.
A meeting was also held with Agriculture Minister David Littleproud earlier in the day.
The controversial 16km route across the agriculturally significant floodplain has become marred in controversy and increasingly a problem for Nationals Leader Michael McCormack, who, as transport minister, approved the route.
While Inland Rail builder, the Australian Rail Track Corporation, is proposing the Inland Rail's 2.5m high levy bank will have a large number of culverts and sections of bridging to allow flood waters to pass without impact, farmers maintain the proposed design is fatally flawed.
They say ARTC's modeling does not properly explain observed previous flood behaviours and stubble left on paddocks to protect soil will block the culverts and become wrapped around other structures, including bridge pylons.
In a statement issued to Queensland Country Life, ARTC said it recognised the concerns farmers held.
"The primary concern is the culvert blockage is likely to drive flood levels higher, particularly upstream of the culverts, and divert more flow through the bridge areas causing damaging erosion of soils downstream," Inland Rail chief executive officer Richard Wankmuller said.
"One of ARTC's mitigating factors is to allow for a baseline blockage factor of 25 per cent for the proposed crossing solution culverts.
"This means the modelling assumes culverts are 25pc blocked in order to ensure that they are still able to perform under these conditions.
"Also, to understand and quantify the impacts of blockage factors on flood behaviours within the Condamine floodplain, a number of other culvert blockage factors were tested including up to 50pc blockage.
"Results of the 50pc blockage indicated the proposed solution is not regarded as highly sensitive from a blockage perspective because the majority of flood flows pass through the proposed 6.1km of bridge structures across the floodplain."
In response to a question about the estimated tonnage of stubble lying on the paddocks across the floodplain, ARTC did not provide a figure.
"As tonnage estimates vary from season to season depending on the cropping system that farmers including rotational or 'opportunity' cropping depending on seasonal rainfalls, ARTC flood modeling included different scenarios using different types of crops, stubble tonnages, crop coverage et cetera," Mr Wankmuller's statement reads.
ARTC also advised Queensland Country Life that Millmerran Rail Group chairman Wes Judd is not a directly affected landowner. That's despite Mr Judd's farm at Lemontree near Millmerran being on the northern side of the proposed Inland Rail route, separated by the Gore Highway.
ARTC said it had met with Mr Judd 67 times in his capacity as the head of MRG. There had been a total of 836 consultation interactions including face to face, phone calls, CCCs, newsletters with the interest group since 2016, including a meeting prior to the protest on Tuesday.
Tuesday's Brisbane protest follows a attended by more than 300 people Senate inquiry in Millmerran on January 29. At that event the majority of the witnesses were openly critical of the handling of the project by ARTC.