Old thinking won’t get locals on board

Inland Rail needs to make most of local knowledge


Editorial
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The Inland Rail has support as a concept, but is the ARTC doing all it can to work with landholders?

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Some things just haven’t changed much – especially in terms of planning – since the early days of white settlement.

How many roads must have been drawn up from Sydney offices that when you visit the site you can see there’s no way the road could have followed the path along which it was gazetted – like over a cliff, for instance.

And so here we are with the otherwise worthy and well supported Inland Rail project, an ambitious ARTC which has been set the huge task of its planning and construction, and a bunch of similar planning issues are emerging.

The feedback among landholders in some parts of the state is that where the rail will transect floodplains and rivers doesn’t appear to have had a great deal of consideration.

A bit of extra homework now could save a lot of headaches in what is going to be a slow project to complete and a long term piece of infrastructure. Any problems we create with its construction will be with us for a while.

This isn’t isolated to the Inland Rail project. Solar farms, which also generally have support, are also receiving kick back from communities who question where these facilities are being built.

These projects might be state, or even nationally significant, but surely it would pay to allow more local input into the mix.

With a new rail line, the implications may be quite significant, as flagged in areas like Coonamble (which will see the longest greenfield section of the track pass through the district, from Narromine to Narrabri) and Goondiwindi, where significant changes in flood waters and run-off could cause damage to farms and surrounding communities.

If the ARTC is not looking at moving the planned line, it needs to better explain how its new track will overcome these concerns raised by landholders.

This project has the potential to bring huge benefits to regional communities, but it needs to involve the communities along its path in its development, which means more than a token appearance at the town hall.

There are suggestions among these communities of options that might be feasible, and if so, then investigating how they might be worked into the plans could go a long way to getting these communities on side.

Projects such as Inland Rail can bring big benefits and have community on board, but only if the powers involved work out how to ditch the 19th century attitude.

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