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A petition calling on the government to change the route of the Inland Rail study corridor through Narromine has attracted more than 450 signatures in three days.
There was much controversy in December when the federal government announced its preferred study corridor (about two kilometres wide in some areas), which hooks around the south-eastern edge of Narromine and takes in the “premier, small-block estates” of High Park and Villeneuve.
The Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC), which is delivering the project, must still undertake field and geotechnical investigations, environmental studies and community consultation, and prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) before the final, 40-60 metre wide rail line can be determined.
High Park resident Jennifer Knop is behind the petition, and said the chosen route was “ill-considered”.
Parkes MP Mark Coulton said it was too late to move the corridor, but moved to assure residents that the ARTC, which is delivering the project, would “try and get the best possible route with the least inconvenience”.
A spokesperson for the ARTC has committed to meeting “with every single landowner along the 300 kilometres of the project to ensure the best possible outcome”.
Mrs Knop, who has been collecting signatures at Kierath's Shopping Square, said: “We’re putting this up to the Prime Minister and his Cabinet and we’re asking them to review and revise their original decision and put their rail line in a more appropriate and less disruptive area, with minimal impact.
“These are all of our premier estates. These are the things that bring people into Narromine to live in a lifestyle community, with a little nucleus that is Narromine, and then these outlying quasi-villages.”
The study corridor around Narromine, which was announced by the federal government in December.
She said residents within the corridor were “absolutely devastated” by the possibility of a rail line running through their property, or close enough to disturb the serenity that attracted them to the area.
She said the corridor also took in two conservation areas as well as culturally significant sites.
“One lady said ‘I can’t talk about it, it’s too upsetting’. She was so frantic,” Mrs Knop said.
“Another fellow who I met said ‘I’ll sign your petition’. He said ‘I’ve got two weeks to go before I do my final payment. I’ve just bought into Villeneuve’.
“He said ‘I bought in there so that I would have a nice environment for my children to grow up. It’s a lifestyle block’ … that’s the same with us – lifestyle blocks out of town, private, that’s the lifestyle that people are looking for.
Up to 300 landowners are impacted by the 307 kilometre study corridor between Narromine and Narrabri.
An ARTC information session at Narromine on December 14 attracted about 250 people, many of whom were upset by the lack of consultation by the ARTC.
At the time the project team apologised for the lack of consultation, saying “it was an honest mistake” that some landowners were missed.
“The Australian government confirmed a study area for the Narromine to Narrabri section of Inland Rail so that ARTC can get on with detailed engineering and environmental studies, including cultural heritage, and consultation with the community,” an ARTC spokesperson said on Wednesday.
“Over the next 18 months to two years there will be many opportunities for people to comment and make submissions as we refine the study area.
“With Inland Rail completing the freight spine, it will bring significant benefits to this region, by better connecting farmers to domestic and international markets.”
Mr Coulton said he had not been satisfied with the level of consultation last year, but had “really reinforced” to the ARTC that “they need to be really engaging those people now and making sure that they’re listening to their concerns and, within the confines of that corridor, trying to get the best outcome possible”.
He urged concerned residents to “build a relationship with the ARTC”.
“They need to … have that discussion about the actual location of the line, but also the other issues like access over the line, fencing … and also those concerns need to be expressed early on so a negotiated agreement can be reached,” Mr Coulton said.
“The ARTC will be discussing with the people that are impacted by that corridor and my job is to make sure that is happening fairly.
“The opportunity to change the entire route, that won’t be an option.
“I realise this is a difficult time, but this line will be built and it will have numerous benefits and one of those will be getting a large number of those semi-trailers off the Newell Highway and onto rail where it’s much more efficient and safer.”
This article first appeared on www.dailyliberal.com.au
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