Inland Rail project rolls on but planning concerns remain, says CWA of NSW

The Country Women’s Association of NSW has today expressed concern at the progress of the Inland Rail project in NSW with the release of the reply to submissions for the Narrabri to Narromine (N2N) section of the proposed alignment.

“Communities in this region have been keenly waiting on this report since February last year as it is supposed to be a report where ARTC outline how they have taken on feedback and concerns made through the EIS exhibition process” said CWA of NSW President Joy Beames.

“The community was told to engage in the process if they wanted to have their say and that is what they did, in a large and significant way. CWA of NSW was also instrumental in arranging a collective of landholders to fund legal and other expert reports to put forward a professionally written and well researched submission to the N2N EIS.

“We are currently working through the detail of that report, but overall it appears there have been some hard-fought wins that we have secured for our members, including some changes to public level crossing safety. That said, for the amount of work and genuine evidence-based research put forward, ARTC have once again mostly dismissed, ignored or inadequately addressed the issues. These include flooding and hydrology concerns, impacts on agricultural lands and associated severance concerns and fencing standards to name a few areas.

“The community only have 21 days to read and respond to well over 1000 pages of bureaucratic and repetitive jargon in the N2N reports. Similarly, we saw the community only being given a short time to respond in the Albury to Illabo EIS, until local political representatives stepped in to push for more time. It’s the same pattern over and over again which points to a wider problem within the NSW planning system.

“We have made requests to meet with NSW Minister for Planning, The Hon. Anthony Roberts, to specifically discuss these issues. At any future meeting it will be important for us to raise the matter of the NSW planning processes more broadly, as the current process does not serve the community at large. We would also urge the Minister to consider the merit of referring the project to the Independent Planning Commission for its views, and to allow the community to have their say fully.”

CWA of NSW is also seeking clarification from the federal Minister for Infrastructure, Hon. Catherine King , as the federal government had previously indicated that they would be conducting a review into Inland Rail, which is a CWA of NSW member policy.

“There are ways to conduct any potential review to minimise time wasted towards the completion of the project, and also take on board the recently completed Senate Committee Inquiry and associated recommendations on Inland Rail,” Joy said.

“We have repeatedly stated that we support this project, and we do, but the execution has been, and remains, an issue. This project is large, it is nation-building and potentially transformative for many communities. But at the moment it’s coming at these communities in a way that it could end up as a disruptive and unproductive white elephant. It’s time for those in charge to take this on and deal with the issues once and for all.”  


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