Letter - Farmer's grave concern over border inland rail route

To the Editor

I read with interest the comments by Robert McNamara "Inland Border Route is set in Steel" Goondiwindi Argus 24 Apr 2019. I am yet to meet Mr McNamara who is the 5th Project Leader for this section of Inland Rail in the last two years. He may be a little hasty in his assertions as the NSW Farmers have been calling for, and the ALP has promised an Inquiry into the Selection Process for Inland Rail. We would certainly table our concerns about past decisions on route selection across the Macintyre Floodplain should that Inquiry eventuate. We have also met with Mark Coulton recently who is cognisant of the concerns of the local community.

I note Mr McNamara's confidence in the modelling regarding the potential flooding risks throughout the Valley. Perhaps he is confident enough to provide a personal guarantee secured against his house. That is what he expects of all residents in our valley. Remember that Boggabilla and Goondiwindi experienced record floods in 1996 and 2011 despite the fact that 1976 was a far, far bigger flood volumetrically. The difference was the increase in irrigation development throughout the floodplain. What Mr McNamara did not say was that Inland Rail are proposing to construct an embankment 16 kms across the Floodplain rising to 6M in height and running parallel with the Whalan Ck for 4.5kms before crossing the river 2kms downstream from Toomelah. It will be interspersed with some bridges and banks of culverts. We are still waiting on details of this as engineering design has not been completed. According to proposed State legislation I cannot construct an embankment any higher that 15cm in the same area.

Mr McNamara is right in saying that landowners and Council 'have a different view'. I am not aware of any local with detailed knowledge of Inland Rail's preferred alignment who favours it over the alternative which runs further west and joins the Qld line closer to Goondiwindi. We have consistently promoted this alternative as being safer from flood risk. As a result of lobbying by Goondiwindi Regional Council and local Landholders Inland Rail are reviewing the engineering assumptions of the alternate route based on their updated hydrology to check their original decision on alignment selection. Perhaps Mr McNamara's mind is already made up. We await the results with considerable interest. In the mean time, after repeated suggestions by Council and Landholders, Inland Rail have finally conferred with locals who have considerable experience in the floodplain. There have been a number of errors recently discovered by locals in the data used in the hydrological model and that dialogue continues and we now await revised modelling as a result. We remain sceptical and concerned about a total reliance on flood modelling.

I would also make the point that connection with the Qld South West Rail line is not part of Inland Rail's Project. It will require its own business case, its own proponents, State Government approvals and its own funding stream. It may be constructed in 5 years, 15 years, 50 years or not at all. Locating the alignment further away from Goondiwindi will make that process harder and less likely.

Despite all our misgivings, all local concerned residents and effected landholders are in favour of Inland Rail, just in a safer location. Why can't Inland Rail accept the alternative?. Inland Rail's stubborn determination to continue entirely according to their own plan underlines how little our wishes matter to them. Mr McNamara's bald statements made in advance of agreed process underlines this and does little to curry local support for Inland Rail's cause. We will continue to prosecute our case on behalf of our families and our community until all options are exhausted.

Richard Doyle

"Malgarai" Boggabilla.