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Rail line to split ag land

SPEAKING OUT: Concerns have been raised about consultation and the proposed inland rail project.
SPEAKING OUT: Concerns have been raised about consultation and the proposed inland rail project. Contributed

PRIME agricultural land could be devastated by the Melbourne-to-Brisbane inland railway according to agricultural groups and residents.

The allocated 2km-wide corridor option, announced last week would wind through south-east Queensland from the New South Wales border through the Condamine floodplains before connecting to Wellcamp and Charlton.

The decision to select one of three paths for the $8.4million rail project has been heavily criticised by many in the rural sector who say the process was without detail.

Brookfield grain and cotton grower Georgie Krieg's family farm sits in the path of the proposed line.

"It is evident now the announced rail corridor encompasses our new farm,” Mrs Krieg said.

"We have recently spent almost $1million on infrastructure on the land, which is now at risk.

"That's the thing you know, you plan your life... How do you come up with a value for not just our land but our future production?” she asked.

For Mrs Krieg, farming on the Condamine plain isn't just a business they can pick up and move, it's a family legacy.

Since 1907 the Krieg family has tended the black soil plans of Glen Royal Farm, an area Mrs Krieg described as one of the nation's richest agricultural areas.

The mother felt so passionately about the potential impact of the project she travelled to Brisbane to question the Minister directly.

"Queensland agricultural strategy is to double its agricultural production by 2040. Building a railway line through a highly productive floodplain is not assisting in achieving this strategy,” she told the room at the Queensland Rural Press Club lunch.

"For such a significant project, I would like to know what assurances can you give?”

The passionate grower described the consultation process in the lead-up to the decision as non-existent.

It consisted of a single public meeting in May, where chair of the Yelarbon to Gowrie Project Reference Group (PRG), Bruce Wilson, met with owners.

"It was just some very general questions, like things farmers are concerned about,” she said.

"There was nothing answered, we all wrote our contact details down and still nothing,” she said.

Queensland Farmers Federation president Stuart Armitage said his members need communication and assurances from the Minister that the plan wasn't going to impact on their investment.

"This floodplain is 18km wide, stretching from Brookstead to Millmerran with extremely valuable agricultural land,” Mr Armitage said.

"The questions is, how has the costing been done when engineering questions can't be answered yet?

"In principal, we support these projects that are being built in regional areas,” Mr Armitage explained.

"But at the same time we want to make sure people are properly represented, and it doesn't come at a cost to one industry over another,” he said.

Agricultural lobby group AgForce similarly released a statement regarding potential impacts.

Grains president Wayne Newton said AgForce wanted assurances that any infrastructure across the floodplain would not adversely affect landholders, especially in regards to overland flows.

"Any impact on water moving naturally across the floodplain is a major concern as water is very hard to predict,” he said.

"This infrastructure must not only be able to stand up to floods, like the one in 2010, but also not cause a raft of unintended consequences.”

Federal Infrastructure Minister Darren Chester has responded to concerns, affirming he was listening to landholders.

"At the end of the day we had to come up with a firm alignment to get the detail and design work done,” the Minister said in Brisbane on the day of the announcement.

"The decision has been made to finally provide a spine for freight to move from the eastern seaboard. It was always going to make some disruption at a local level,” he said.

"The assurance that I can give is I want to see local knowledge respected and understood.

"To ensure the best hydrologists and best engineers are working with locals.

"I am deeply conscious of how productive the floodplains are, but also deeply conscious of if we don't get across the floodplains somewhere this project won't become a reality.

"I am not pretending it is going to be easy, with a few years of robust discussion ahead of us,” he said.

Other options for the rail project included passing Warwick or Leyburn.

The EIS project for the plan is expected to take 18 months to two years to complete, while minor upgrades to the NSW network will begin in the next six months.

Topics:  darren chester inland rail project rural press club



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