Communities along the Melbourne-Brisbane Inland Rail route may miss out on the project’s full benefits because of poor consultation with local governments.
A federal parliamentary inquiry into the $20 billion rail infrastructure project has found that councils had largely been frustrated in their efforts to engage with the project manager, Australian Rail Track Corporation, and provide ARTC with community feedback.
In its report, Inland Rail: Derailed from the start, the Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee said broader support for the project is vital if the economic benefits of the project are to be shared fully.
Among inquiry submissions received from local governments, the Toowoomba Regional Council questioned whether engagement and feedback provided by locals were adequately considered by ARTC.
The Lockyer Valley Regional Council submission highlighted key failings of the process that limited “community input into the reference design”.
The Goondiwindi Regional Council commented that the community felt “totally shunned and ignored by the ARTC” and was concerned by the “divide and conquer approach” that ARTC had adopted.
Conversely, the Moree Plains Shire Council spoke of its good relationship with the ARTC, despite frequent changes in staffing and “a disconnect within the ARTC” at times.
The report contains 26 recommendations, including that the ARTC:
- fosters improved local government consultation through regional forums aimed at generating community support for Inland Rail; and that it
- conducts biennial independent reviews of its stakeholder engagement and consultation processes to ensure relevancy is maintained throughout all stages of the project.