Landholders oppose review into Inland Rail ‘forestry route’
THE $10 billion Inland Rail is again the topic of fierce debate by farmers across the Darling Downs following Federal Government calls to review the route across the Condamine Floodplain.
After years of pressure from landholders, the government will re-examine the proposed Border to Gowrie route, ordering a review of the 'state forestry route' through Cecil Plains.
Residents and landholders on the Condamine Floodplain between Millmerran and Brookstead have long opposed the proposed route, warning the current path would exacerbate flooding.
But Cecil Plains landowners believe moving the route west will only move the problem, and perhaps make flooding impacts worse.
Bongeen resident Meg Kummerow has experienced the "major disruption" caused by flood events in the past and believes further infrastructure would compound the impacts.
Mrs Kummerow said she, along with other affected residents and landholders, had learned of the review from a media release.
"It's disappointing that affected landowners weren't given an opportunity beforehand to find out about the announcement," she said.
Cecil Plains landowner and resident Jan Lafrenz believes the name forestry route adds insult to injury and was concerned by the decision to review the route.
"The name 'forestry route' is highly misleading as it really consists of twice the length of floodplain as the current alignment does," he said.
Mr Lafrenz was concerned by the review and said the route through Cecil Plains was "not an option".
"The call for the review gave reasons of addressing community concerns, floodplain issues and to see if the alternative could address the business case of the rail and the work has been done to prove that none of those points can bet met by this proposal of the so called forestry route or the review into it.
"One can only questions the reasons behind the calling for the review, because by the very stated aim of it, it has to fail," Mr Lafrenz said.
"It is not an option, the same parameters have been applied right throughout the process and has resulted in the selection of the current route and its refined design to this point and … that's what saw this route abandoned very early on in the process."
Frustrated farmers have Member for Condamine Pat Weir in their corner who is confident in the current alignment's flood modelling.
"To essentially propose to move from one floodplain to another floodplain 35 kilometres downstream makes no sense," Mr Weir said.
Mr Weir said the so-called forestry route stretching from Cecil Plains to Gowrie was scrapped as an unviable option in the early planning stages of Inland Rail.
"All these areas were investigated back in the early days, there was a number of corridors and this was one of them. It did not even make that stage, that's how early it was ruled out," he said.
Mr Weir said years of planning had already been concentrated on the current alignment prior to the call for a review of the forestry route.
"There's been a lot of negotiations with land owners, I understand there has even been some property purchases," he said.
Based on his investigations into the project, Mr Weir said an 'enormous work' has gone into the proposed alignment.
"I've asked questions as to what times there is impact flood mapping and basically, it's been constructed for a biblical event and if it is not, no government is going to approve it."
Mr Weir said the review was pitting communities against each other and creating false hope for affected landowners.
"We're told this will not be a long process, I hope it's not because it creates false hope for those already impacted in the designated corridor, it unfortunately pits community against community," he said.
"Wherever this project goes it's going to have an impact, nobody has ever questioned that, what we've got to do is get the design right."
Landowner Peter Bach said the sooner the route was ruled out, the better.
"It's something else to worry about, we don't need any more worries, do we?" he said.
"I don't see much point looking at another floodplain when you've already got one, why choose another one."