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6 January, 2021

Revealed: Inland Rail's EIS for Condamine River floodplains imminent

THE Environmental Impact Statement for the Border to Gowrie section of the proposed Inland Rail route is expected to be released for public consumption by the Queensland Coordinator-General in coming weeks.


Graham Clapham.
Southern Darling Downs Community Consultative Committee Chair Graham Clapham.

THE Environmental Impact Statement for the Border to Gowrie section of the proposed Inland Rail route is expected to be released for public consumption by the Queensland Coordinator-General in coming weeks.

The Rural Leader caught up with Southern Darling Downs Community Consultative Committee Chair Graham Clapham about where the project is at and what can be expected to come out of the EIS.

The project

The New South Wales/Queensland Border to Gowrie (B2G) section of Inland Rail comprises approximately 146km of new dual gauge track, and 78km of upgraded track from the New South Wales/Queensland border near Yelarbon, to Gowrie Junction, north west of Toowoomba.

It crosses the two local government areas of Goondiwindi and Toowoomba.

Following a comprehensive comparison of four alternative corridors, in September 2017, the Australian Government determined the preferred area for B2G.

The two-kilometre-wide study area to progress to the next phase of design will go via Millmerran, Brookstead, Pittsworth and the Wellcamp-Charlton Industrial Precinct.

Environmental Impact Statement

The Australian Rail Track Corporation said the EIS will address the following areas:

·         Geotechnical surveys – to obtain information about the physical properties of the soil and rock

·         Hydrology studies – to obtain information about flooding and surface water movements

·         Ecological surveys – to identify habitats and/or species that exist within the area of investigation

·         Noise, air quality and vibration surveys – to measure background noise, air quality and vibration levels at key sites

·         Land surveys – to identify property boundaries and any easements and to install survey pegs if required

·         Utility identification surveys – to identify infrastructure such as gas and water pipelines

·         Heritage surveys – investigations for any evidence of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal artefacts/heritage

·         Condamine floodplain assessment – ARTC is prioritising its assessment of engineering and technical options for crossing the Condamine floodplain within the study area.

The consultation committee  

The Southern Darling Downs Community Consultative Committee was formed in 2017 to create another level of engagement between ARTC and the community.

Norwin farmer Graham Clapham originally agreed to be a nominee for the Queensland Farmers’ Federation but is now into his second term as the chairman.

Graham’s family have been farming in the district for three generations and in taking on the role of chairman, Graham vowed to make sure no one was left behind and the local people impacted had their voices heard.

“I took on the role because I was concerned that everyone in the community needed to have a say and have their issues dealt with and the CCC is one of the processes that can help them do that,” he said.

“I’ve worn a bit of flack from time to time, some felt I should be opposed to the project, but it wasn’t my role. The role of the CCC is to ensure a proper process to deal with the issues, not to get involved in a debate about where it should or shouldn’t go.

“I’ve struggled with that at times and perhaps I should have been a bit more outspoken about this – if you come down on one side more than the other, it’s never right.

“This is unchosen change, it messes with people’s lives, all of us struggle with unchosen change.

“It is quite an interesting topic, there’s a number of stages we go through, none of us escape life without unchosen change – the sooner we reach the stage of acceptance, the sooner we are able to become involved in working out an acceptable outcome.

“The longer we stay in the stage in denial and anger, the longer we hurt ourselves and everyone around us.

“I would encourage the impacted parties to accept I am not happy it has come upon their lives.”

Graham said he often thinks about the impacts of the Toowoomba Second Range Crossing.

“It is a great piece of road for us, it saves us at least 20 minutes getting to Brisbane or the Sunshine Coast, but I personally know people who were impacted by it, losing their homes or properties,” he said.

“But moving it wouldn’t change the amount of impact – if we are going to progress and develop as a nation, we need to develop this kind of infrastructure.

“Unfortunately, big corporations don’t always get it right – but it all comes down to how you deal with the people impacted, not the impact itself.”

Community concerns

As the Border to Gowrie section includes the controversial Condamine River floodplain crossing, Graham said there was always going to be “much contention and concern.”

In 2019 the Southern Darling Downs Community Consultative Committee facilitated an independent review of ARTC’s flood modelling, conducted by Dr John Macintosh from Water Solutions.

Graham said Dr Macintosh had found the ARTC’s modelling process to be “fit-for-purpose”.

“I am in support of the flood plain modelling,” he said.

“I am not an expert in any way shape of form in these matters, somewhere along the line you have to defer to an expert and the overwhelming majority are pleased there’s an independent panel of hydrologist experts looking at this.

“There’s a number of areas of expertise looking at the issues which brings a great deal of comfort – the Coordinator General will look at the work of the expert panel, not just the work of the ARTC engineers.

“I think we can be glad that is happening, we haven’t seen any results of the expert panel and should see it early on this year, they are going to issue reports as the process goes on, that work will be taken into account – but does it mean it will all be okay?

“There will be always be concerns, as there is with any structures built on the flood plain, you have to take it seriously, but I think somewhere along the line you have got to except everything reasonable is being done and you have to get on with it.”

Graham said noise and vibration would be one of the most significant issues addressed in the Environmental Impact Statement.

“Even though some of these communities are on existing rail corridors, some have fallen into disuse, some are adjacent to a rather busy national highway with traffic increasing, some people already deal with noise and this will be an addition,” he said.

“Road and rail interface will be another issue of much interest – rail crossings are always controversial, road over rail, rail over road, both create issues putting cars or highspeed trains up in the air, that will certainly be an issue that will require some dealing with.”

Graham also explained some smaller communities on the route will be very close to where the rail infrastructure will be.

“It will be a big EIS – our group has asked for an extended amount of time to deal with it.”

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