‘Hollow victory’ for rural, regional stakeholders as Inland Rail review confirms mismanagement, poor planning
The findings of an independent review into the Inland Rail project have vindicated concerns voiced by many landholders and communities along the route, says the Country Women’s Association (CWA) of NSW, but they can take no satisfaction from the review outcomes when there are many issues still to be resolved.
In her independent review of the Inland Rail, commissioned by the Albanese government last year and released late last week, Dr Kerry Schott identified massive cost blow-outs, unacceptable delays and poor planning and assessment processes. Dr Schott called out the poor quality of environmental impact statements prepared by ARTC that had not been capable of acceptance, ultimately contributing to delays and community angst around the project.
The CWA of NSW has been calling for an independent review into the project for a number of years over concerns around inadequate stakeholder consultation along the route, the impact of the route on landholdings, hydrology and valuable agricultural land, and sub-standard assessment processes.
“We welcome this review, which we have been pushing for for some time and which is long overdue, but the findings don’t bring us any satisfaction when it’s identified gross mismanagement of the project, huge increases in the cost for taxpayers and confirmation that farmers and communities were right to be concerned about the level of consultation over the project’s route and the planning and assessment processes employed by ARTC,” said CWA of NSW President Joy Beames.
“Farmers’ distress and anger around the process over such a long period has been vindicated by this review, but it’s a bittersweet result when you consider it’s unlikely there will be any changes to the route at this stage and when many of the issues identified in the review could have been avoided if transparent and accountable processes and planning mechanisms had been employed from the beginning.”
Joy said the CWA of NSW welcomed Dr Kerry Schott highlighting the need to go back to landholders to talk about ways to protect agricultural land and the importance of ongoing community consultation, and hoped the Albanese Government would take her observations on board.
“In the findings, Dr Schott acknowledges that ‘where greenfield work is on agricultural land or through areas of biodiversity, the consultation process must address these matters’. We welcome this, particularly in more contentious parts of the route, like the Narromine to Narrabri where there are long-held concerns around the likes of flooding and hydrology, the impacts on agricultural holdings, associated severance concerns and fencing standards,” she said.
“Many of the issues raised have come about because the community was not listened to when a project of this significance demanded that all voices should have been heard. We have always supported the Inland Rail but we became aware of issues around its planning and implementation from the beginning, and we remain disappointed that it’s taken so long for those to be formally recognised and called out.
“There are obviously significant benefits from the Inland Rail, but there will be questions around this going forward when you factor in the enormous costs and the toll it’s taken on affected landholders and communities to this point. We now hope this new Federal Government takes Dr Schott’s review and her recommendations on board and ensures full and transparent consultation with communities and stakeholders for the remainder of the project.”
For more information or interview requests contact Kylie Galbraith (Seftons) on 0411 480 208.