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KATTER Australia Party federal leader Bob Katter is in the process of drafting legislation with KAP state candidate for Condamine John Hill to change the Federal Government's proposed Inland Rail route through Millmerran, the Condamine flood plain, Pittsworth, Southbrook and onto Wellcamp.
The draft legislation will look at a new alignment which has regard for community, cost, environment, safety and operations, and Mr Katter said it will protect farms, property and livelihoods.
Once drafted, the legislation would have to be introduced to parliament and then voted on by both the House of Representatives and the Senate.
But Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Darren Chester has hit back at the Mr Katter's suggestion, saying the Inland Rail "must cross the Condamine flood plain to get to Toowoomba, no matter which alignment is taken."
"If Mr Katter is opposed to the preferred alignment, which has been announced, perhaps he could inform other communities which route he would prefer to take?" Mr Chester said.
Mr Katter said he'd seen this situation before and was aware of the disastrous problems.
"I, probably more than anyone else in Queensland, am aware of the disastrous problems that will be created by cutting across a watershed," he said.
"When John Hill took me to a series of meetings I knew the problems they were outlining only too well, I've had to live with it in my old State electorate, the outcomes were bad enough in my homeland, but they will be infinitely worse on these close settled farming areas.
"Our farms are 50 thousand acre pastoral holdings; whereas this line will be banking up water through closely settled and intensely cropped farmed areas. Many hundreds of farms will be destroyed.
"KAP gave a commitment to the people of Condamine that we would move in the Parliament for a re-positioning away from 'the new' government alignment."
An Australian Rail Track Corporation spokesperson took aim at Mr Katter's claims about the impacts of Inland Rail, describing them as "wrong and irresponsible".
"What Mr Katter describes is simply not going to happen. ARTC would never propose such a design solution and a project that had such impacts would never be approved. ARTC would be happy to brief Mr. Katter at any time on Inland Rail," the spokesperson said.
"ARTC is getting on with the job of delivering Inland Rail in the Darling Downs and for Australia.
"The Government has selected a preferred corridor between the Queensland border and Gowrie so ARTC can progress engineering solutions, further socio-economic analysis and consultation with the community.
"While it is not unusual for railways to cross floodplains we appreciate people need complete confidence in the design and based on our analysis we are confident there will be acceptable engineering solutions.
"As we progress we will share our work and get the community's feedback every step of the way. We have been very pleased with the attendance at information sessions happening at the moment which are continuing over the next month and we encourage people in the community to attend."
The KAP's legislation would set the guidelines to choose a route that achieves the operational service agreements, avoids crossing highly productive farming land, utilises brown field and less densely populated corridors and incorporates a community consultation process that includes all affected stakeholders.
Mr Chester said building a project the scale of Inland Rail "was always going to provide some challenges".
"My aim is to utilise local knowledge and the best engineering minds in Australia to construct a project that will benefit generations to come," he said.
"The Australian Rail Track Corporation is committed to finding engineering solutions to cross the Condamine that minimise the impacts and maximise the benefits of Inland Rail.
"We understand the concerns, and the ARTC has agreed to my request that work on the Condamine flood plain crossing is prioritised and that it is done with local input.
"Community Consultative Committees are being established, with nominations closing on November 24, which will ensure the input of local people and regional leaders are taken into account."
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This article first appeared on www.thechronicle.com.au
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