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Calls for a review into the planned Inland Rail route through NSW have gained fresh momentum following the announcement of a Queensland review last week. The Queensland review is driven by concerns that the rail infrastructure will exacerbate flooding in the Condamine floodplain - concerns shared across the border in NSW.
It is disappointing to hear the Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack, who ordered the Queensland review, suggest that the NSW route is finalised. There are claims that there were consultation opportunities in 2010 and 2015, yet the study corridor only became clear in 2016. Without the availability of full information, the previous engagement opportunities can hardly be considered in the spirit of democratic consultation.
Sadly, our members in regional NSW have not been represented in the halls of Parliament, either. Our calls for greater engagement and for scrutiny into the proposed greenfield alignment have fallen on deaf ears. Deputy Prime Minister McCormack's stance that the route through NSW is finalised is testament to this.
We accept that there will be sacrifices and that the Inland Rail could be a game changer for supply chain and cost path savings. But as presently designed, the investment in Inland Rail offers very little to regional NSW. By bypassing regional hubs like Coonamble in favour of a slightly faster route option, the Australian Government and the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) have missed a crucial opportunity to rebuild regional Australia following years of devastating drought.
A failure to properly assess the flood risk posed by the new infrastructure adds further insult to regional communities, especially those in and near the Macintyre floodplain who could be exposed to a heightened risk of flooding.
We are still waiting for the transparent justification of the current route and the trade-offs it promotes. Landholders and communities affected by the Inland Rail project need to be heard in the finalisation of the rail route. If this cannot be achieved through consultation, then an independent review is needed into the Greenfield corridors and NSW Farmers will continue to push for this.
This article first appeared on www.dailyliberal.com.au
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