Some New South Wales farmers are unhappy with the process behind land acquisition and route choices for the Narromine to Narrabri section of the Inland Rail project.
Australian Rail Track Corporation chief executive John Fullerton visited Canberra this week for Senate Estimates hearings, answering a range of questions relating to the massive rail construction project.
Farmers impacted by the construction of around 300 kilometres of new track between Narromine and Narrabri have expressed particular concern over compensation, and the specifics of the route.
John Williams, a federal senator for New South Wales, told ABC Radio he would hold the ARTC and Fullerton to account over the project.
He said farmers would get a clearer picture once the route between Narrabri and Narromine was finalised within the corridor.
“There are about 300 farmers listed in the track at the moment, but the corridor is marked at two kilometres wide between Narrabri and Narromine. When that’s brought back to 60 metres, that’ll involve about 50 farms,” Williams told NSW Country Hour on October 25.
Williams said Fullerton had explained the ARTC would pay for the valuation of land that would be acquired from farmers, and then would negotiate based on that valuation.
He said the ARTC would also pay for new fencing, crossings, and any required new water infrastructure as a result of properties being dissected.
Where settlements can’t be reached, Williams noted the NSW Government would ultimately be able to force farmers to sell.
But he hopes negotiations won’t come to that.
“[Farmers] have got to have a say,” Williams said. “They’ve got to have a say when it comes to the price, the crossings, the water infrastructure, the fencing, etcetera.
“I’m just concerned if there’s conflict or disagreement, the powers of the parliament in NSW would have to be used. I hope it doesn’t come to that [but] who knows what the future brings. Hopefully they’ll come to agreements, because the line will go ahead.”
Williams conceded farmers were “annoyed,” and criticised the ARTC for what he said was a lack of communication in some cases.
“Not enough consultation, not enough discussion is coming from the ARTC,” Williams said. “They need to talk more. But a lot of that will come when they finalise the corridor.”
NSW Farmers president James Jackson said farmers in the region were also upset over the choice of route, which dissects many of their properties.
“I think they [owe] an explanation to the people about the methodology which the business case was made under,” Jackson told ABC Radio.
“There wasn’t a proper socioeconomic study done into the impacts of various routes. They’ve got a responsibility to go out there and talk to the people.”
NSW Farmers has called on the Coalition Government to explain the route selection.
“There’s still extreme angst about really basic things, about how the people who are going to have to wear this line are going to deal with the line going through their place,” Jackson said.
“How they’re going to get machinery across the line, how they’re going to get stock across the line. We support the premise of the line – it’s going to hopefully cut some costs out of the grain supply chain … but the route selection process has to be more critical.”