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27 April, 2022

Inland rail flood concerns

New flood mitigation measures are being explored on properties affected by the inland rail as the Narromine-to-Narrabri section of the project seeks approval from the state department of planning.

By Natasha May

Stephen Campion, a cereal and cattle farmer from Gilgandra, is one landholder who has been contacted in the past fortnight by the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) to say he could see more of his land acquired as part of a drainage control area.

In an email Mr Campion received from ARTC, the corporation said that “the drainage control areas are a relatively new concept which is why these areas have not been identified on previous maps”.

The email said that a maximum of 200 drainage control areas are proposed along the alignment to make sure the floodwater speeds aren’t too fast during flood events.

Mr Campion said that if the inland rail makes flooding worse, he is worried it could create soil erosion on his farm. The potential for flooding on the farm is one reason Mr Campion and his neighbours were surprised in 2017 when the proposed route wasn’t following higher ground in the area, which would have avoided the water that comes from the southeast onto their properties.

Adrian Lyons, chair of the NSW Farmers’ Inland Rail Taskforce, said a route option was initially available that would have taken the rail on top of the water shed and on an existing rail corridor through Coonamble, but it wasn’t chosen.

Mr Lyons says there are 16 creeks that come out of the Warrumbungles, constituting a “fierce” amount of water the rail will have to cross following the current chosen route. However, he says unlike towns such as Narromine and Narrabri, the flood risks have not been documented.

“There’s no data capture because there’s no irrigation in the area,” Mr Lyons said.

An ARTC spokesperson told Gilgandra Newspapers that “ARTC confidently stands by the extensive work undertaken to assess and identify the best route for the Narromine-to-Narrabri section of inland rail”.

“The proposed drainage control areas are being developed for the NSW Department of Planning and Environment to assist in refining the reference design regarding drainage solutions at some locations along the Narromine-to-Narrabri section,” the spokesperson said.

Peter Holt, a lawyer who is engaged jointly by NSW Farmers and Country Women’s Association to act as special counsel regarding inland rail matters, says that these drainage control areas come “very late in the context of public consultation”.

The new flood mitigation measures don’t reassure Mr Campion who says it comes as an afterthought.

“They should have worked all this out beforehand. It’s just an afterthought. That’s the way the whole project is run. They’ll leave it til later and work it out then,” said Mr Campion.

The ARTC spokesperson said “the Department of Planning and Environment in NSW has input on the EIS [environmental impact statement] process.

“This is a normal part of the EIS process and helps inform the design for inland rail.”

The spokesperson said that a Preferred Infrastructure Report and Amendment Report are being prepared which will include the proposed locations of the drainage control areas and that ongoing consultation will occur prior to final decisions being made.

 “We have the utmost confidence in our flood modelling which has been conducted, reviewed and verified separately by the nation’s leading hydrology experts.

“We have incorporated local knowledge into our models which we are sharing with the local communities as part of the ongoing consultation process,” the spokesperson said.

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