17 February, 2021
EIS lacking detail
An extraordinary meeting was called by Gilgandra Shire Council early February 2021, in order for councilors to discuss and respond to proposed submissions to the environmental impact statement (EIS) for the Narromine to Narrabri corridor of the Inland Rail Project. Submissions for the EIS closed that Sunday, February 9, 2021.
Earlier this month Gilgandra Shire Council (GSC) held an extraordinary meeting. The meeting was held in order to allow councillors to have input on the submissions being made by council with regard to the Inland Rail Project’s Narromine-to-Narrabri (N2N) environmental impact statement (EIS).
To aid council with their submission, Projence was contracted and the company completed a review of the N2N EIS. A 45-page response was submitted by council. The cost of the contractor amounted to $41,700, which was not budgeted for by council. It is also not recoverable from the Inland Rail Project, which is described as “unfortunate” and “not anticipated” in council’s business paper.
A lack of detail within the EIS has proven to be a sticking point for many, but also represents one of the quirks of state significant projects. The planning process for such projects allows the proponent to develop detailed plans as it progresses the project. Details can be filled in along the way.
GSC general manager David Neeves said that council have made it known in their response that the lack of detail is noticeable. “Generally, the EIS lacks adequate content to make a full assessment of the impacts and we have made this statement loud and clear. Unfortunately, the EIS is the precursor to a multitude of other management plans that will be required to be prepared as conditions of consent,” said Mr Neeves.
“This is where the devil in the detail will be and consequently will require significant more work by council to better understand the impacts and what mitigation measures will be required to be implemented by Inland Rail. While this is not ideal, it is understandable given the scale of this project.”
Key subject matter covered in GSC’s EIS response were cultural heritage, flooding, hydrology, socio-economics, planning, agri-economics, engineering and rail operations.
During the extraordinary meeting it was also decided that a number of other factors be included in council’s submission:
• A greater emphasis on local participation in any future contracts.
• 1:100 flood modelling being based on the 1955 flood.
• Level crossing/s be designed to consider the movement of farm machinery and the potential impacts to other traffic.
• Fencing standards for boundaries adjoining council roads.