Thursday, May 30, 2024

Toowoomba Council endorses Inland Rail submission

Toowoomba Regional Council (TRC) has endorsed a submission on the draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Border to Gowrie (B2G) section of the Inland Rail project that will be sent to the Queensland Coordinator General.

Toowoomba Region Mayor Paul Antonio said Council was determined to ensure world’s best practice was adhered to throughout the project in the Toowoomba Region.

Mayor Antonio said Council’s submission, on behalf of the community, detailed specifically how it wished to see the project align with the Terms of Reference requirements as outlined by the state government (Queensland Coordinator General).

“This submission highlights where Council believes the Coordinator General needs to seek additional information from the proponent (Australian Rail Track Corporation) around numerous issues that directly affect our Region,” Mayor Antonio said.

“The Inland Rail will be one of the biggest projects we will see in our lifetime. Council will seek the best outcomes for our community as part of our formal response,” he said.

“We expect to see a significant percentage of the total construction cost for the Inland Rail spent in our Region, with this major investment resulting in the creation of many jobs during construction.

“There’s no doubt the Inland Rail will be good news for our small businesses.

“Council is determined to see our local supplier conditions used as the basis for ensuring our businesses have the chance to supply as much of the products and services during and post construction as possible. Council strongly recommends setting a 75% local supplier target for the B2G section.”

The construction component of the project is several times larger than the Toowoomba Second Range Crossing project.

“The project also is likely to have significant environmental impacts on agricultural lands, water resources and flora and fauna and we need assurances that everything that can be done, is being done to protect the liveability of our Region and capitalise on economic benefits,” the Mayor said.

“Our submission has identified a number of issues with the draft Border to Gowrie Environmental Impact Statement.”

The overarching issues include, but are not limited to:
• Construction water sources (preventing the use of any TRC water supplies and, need for the proponent to identify and source water from private allocations);
• Identify and protect areas of cultural significance;
• Proposed management of road/rail interfaces do not meet the desired outcome of the Federal Rail Safety Guidelines (looking at grade separation and crossing safety, and ensuring access for over-size and wide agricultural machinery);
• Local road and traffic requirements (including provisions for post-construction maintenance);
• Consideration around the operation of the Mt Kent Observatory (protection of dark-sky that supports Queensland’s only professional astronomical research facility);
• Measures to mitigate dust, noise and spill stockpiles;
• Appropriate management of flood mitigation in the Condamine Floodplain, and consideration of outcomes of the Independent Expert Panel for flood studies review (plus consideration for hydrology matters across the alignment);
• Current and significant accommodation shortages in the TRC Region;
• Appropriate management of providing regional job opportunities for the local community, and
• Impacts to environmentally sensitive areas (further surveys are required to assist in the identification of core fauna and flora habitats).

“As well as having our own officers review the plans, Council engaged external consultants to assist Council with the technical review and collation for the submission,” Mayor Antonio said.

“Where possible, draft conditions will be provided to assist the Coordinator General in either requesting the proponent to provide more information or conditioning the proponent to undertake action to mitigate potential impacts.

“This is a once-in-a-generation project, not just for us, but for Australia, so let’s look at all the factors to make the best decisions possible.”

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