Fears Inland Rail will make region more vulnerable to flooding
A REGIONAL council which was devastated by flooding a decade ago holds fears Inland Rail will only make them more vulnerable and the funding model for the “once-in-a-generation project” will prioritise profit over safety.
The Lockyer Valley felt the brunt of the floods in 2011 and 2013.
Of the 25 people who died in the 2011 disaster, 12 were from Grantham and there were more deaths in Murphys Creek and Helidon.
The proposed 1700km railway is being managed by the Australian Rail Track Corporation with two sections, Gowrie to Helidon and Helidon to Calvert, set to cross the region.
In a submission to the Senate Standing Committee on Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport, the council outlined its concerns about the project.
The freight-only railway will cross through the townships of Helidon, Gatton, Forest Hill and Laidley.
“Council has long recognised the potential for national benefits from an Inland Rail project,” the submission read.
“Our approach has always been to reduce and mitigate as far as possible the negative impacts of the project on our communities and to look for any potential benefits from the project.
“To date these benefits have proved elusive, however the impacts of the proposed railway are already being felt in our communities.”
The council has taken issue with the 126 kilometre section from Gowrie to Kagaru being delivered by a public private partnership, which it says could result in “substandard” infrastructure it would then be left to manage.
“While council has been engaged in the concept design process, there remain significant
unknowns which will not be well understood until detailed design is undertaken by the successful consortium,” the submission read.
“By that stage there is a real concern that council will have limited opportunity to influence design outcomes.
“This project will impact the Lockyer Valley for generations.”
The council’s senior adviser for advocacy Stephen Hart said the model could prove problematic.
“We understand why they’re doing it,” he said.
“It’s a very challenging engineering project.
“The risk is that with a normal contract arrangement, the (Federal Government) would be there as a bit of a fall back position in case the contractor went off the trails.
“Or concern is that profit might take a priority over safety or amenity.”
The Lockyer council is concerned the project could worsen flood risks and improving flood resilience will not be a priority for a private party.
Flood modelling has been conducted for the concept design of the local sections and the council will seek a review of the modelling from whichever party is appointed by ARTC.
“Any bit of linear infrastructure has the potential to cause flood impacts, whether it be a road or a railway line,” Mr Hart said.
“Unless that’s well designed and carefully modelled and carefully constructed, there’s a risk that it will impact on the water flows.”
Providing the local community with adequate up-to-date information has also been flagged as an issue.
An ARTC office was opened in Gatton last year and the council commended ARTC officers for their strong efforts engaging and showing genuine concern for impacted communities.
The council understands local ARTC officers have individually contacted all directly-affected residents on a ‘one-on-one’ basis.
“With the timing of our engagement (ARTC) didn’t have much information to provide the community with,” Mr Hart said.
“Their CEO Richard Wankmuller acknowledged that at a community meeting.
“He pointed out as time progressed, they’ve got more and more information but unfortunately they engaged early when they just didn’t have the information the community needed.
“I believe that’s led to a bit of community disengagement.
“It’s a project that’s been in the making for so long that a lot of community members just felt that it wasn’t going to happen.
“Unfortunately we believe it will. We’ve always said we can see the national benefits but it’s coming at a significant cost to the communities of the Lockyer Valley.”
Inland Rail director of environment, engagement and property Rebecca Pickering said ARTC “acknowledges community concerns” regarding the project.
“Since 2017, we have been working closely with communities and stakeholders in the Gowrie to Helidon and Helidon to Calvert region to discuss project status, information about the draft Environmental Impact Statement, rail alignment, hydrology, noise and vibration, flora and fauna, property, traffic and road rail interfaces,” she said.
“The G2H and H2C projects are each in the planning process.
“In the last year, we have had over 800 engagements with landholders and other community members, held four quarterly meetings with the Lockyer Valley Community Consultative Committee and facilitated monthly working group meetings with councils in the region.
“Our consultation with the community is ongoing and residents can contact us through our dedicated email and 1800 number.”
ARTC submitted the preliminary draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Helidon to Calvert section to the Queensland Coordinator-General in September last year.
It also recently submitted the EIS for the Gowrie to Helidon section.
Read more stories by Lachlan McIvor here.