LANDHOLDERS can expect better treatment during the construction of Inland Rail thanks to a landmark agreement between NSW Farmers and the Australian Rail Track Corporation.
The organisations have worked together to develop a joint information pack that acknowledges and addresses issues of concern to property owners, including the poor behaviour of some contractors, and spells out the rights and responsibilities of all parties moving forward.
NSW Farmers Inland Rail Taskforce chair Peter Wilson said there had been a series of open and productive mediator-facilitated discussions, in line with a recommendation from a Senate review last year, which would lead to better outcomes for landholders.
“We have had some frank and robust conversations with ARTC executives about the expectations of farmers and other landholders, and we’re pleased with the result,” Mr Wilson said.
“Our goal was to improve engagement between the ARTC and landholders to be more transparent, fair and honest.
“We’re hopeful this will provide a better way forward for Inland Rail for all parties involved.”
When completed, the Inland Rail project will connect Melbourne to Brisbane with a heavy freight line.
The project has met with opposition after many landholders along the route had raised concerns about the way ARTC and some of its contractors were operating.
NSW Farmers was one of several organisations that pushed for a Senate inquiry to look at issues relating to the Inland Rail project, including the business case for the development, failings in community engagement and consultation, route selection issues and flooding and hydrology concerns.
The information pack provides further details on how ARTC will address issues of concern to landowners including the property acquisition process, fencing standards and Inland Rail’s process for managing complaints.
Mr Wilson said there was a shared commitment to listening and understanding each party’s perspective and reaching mutually beneficial solutions, which would enable the safe and efficient delivery of Inland Rail.
“There will always be a problem of a power imbalance when a powerful, government-backed agency turns up in the country with instructions to build infrastructure.”
“In many instances, we have seen an approach of ‘forge ahead and deal with the complaints later’.
Mr Wilson said projects like Inland Rail cannot avoid impacting on existing land use, and that needed to be dealt with first.
“This interaction with ARTC in sitting down together, identifying and agreeing on where there is unfair treatment of landowners, and sorting out a better way forward, should be template for how all agencies of government better deal with the real issues of building infrastructure on private farming land.”
In December 2021, the Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee report on Inland Rail recommended that an independent mediator be employed to facilitate an improved working relationship between ARTC Inland Rail and NSW Farmers.
“ARTC Inland Rail is delighted to have worked with NSWFA to produce this information pack for property owners on the Inland Rail route,” Inland Rail acting chief executive Rebecca Pickering said.
‘We have worked very closely with NSWFA to develop an improved understanding of how we can work more effectively together and deliver better outcomes for property owners.
Source: ARTC, NSW Farmers