By CAITLIN CROWLEY
A NEW Inland Rail Summit to be hosted in Toowoomba later this year is aiming to unite the 36 local government areas impacted by the 1700km rail line, along with a wide range of stakeholders, in a bid to maximise the potential benefits and share lessons learned from the process so far.
Toowoomba Mayor Paul Antonio made the announcement at the 2022 Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) General Assembly in Canberra this week and said Inland Rail was a complex project that needed the combined effort of local, state and federal governments to be successful.
“The theme of this year’s ALGA 2022 National General Assembly is, ‘Partners in Progress’, and that’s why I came to our nation’s capital to seek counsel and expertise from all local governments along the alignment in a bid to leverage as much as we can from the Inland Rail to build prosperity across regional Australia,” Antonio said.
“I see great benefit in bringing together all councils, as well as industry across the alignment, to share insights and opportunities.
“I will also be approaching the new Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government Catherine King, to invite her to play a central role in the Inland Rail Summit, as I believe this summit is of national significance.”
Inland Rail has one project in Victoria, five in Queensland and seven in New South Wales.
While ARTC is yet to break ground in Queensland, construction is surging ahead on the Narrabri to North Star project (pictured above) and, further south, the Parkes to Narromine section of Inland Rail is now complete and operational.
“It’s quite a sight to see, driving along the Newell Highway, all the work being done,” Narrabri Mayor Ron Campbell said.
“It’s a game changer for us as a community, there’s no two ways about it.
“The lessons are you’ve got to keep driving that local content – we drove a pretty heavy case (for ARTC) to engage with local contractors here.”
Parkes Shire Council general manager Kent Boyd told the Caller Inland Rail had worked well for area.
“It has served as a catalyst for Pacific National to develop a large terminal here and for the NSW Government to subsequently establish the state’s first Special Activation Precinct, which presents plenty of further opportunities for us to diversify our economic base, develop our existing sectors and businesses and deliver positive economic and social outcomes for our community,” he said.
“In terms of lessons learned, communication really is key, and it’s important to engage early and then regularly with both ARTC and the builder.”
Lockyer Valley Mayor Tanya Milligan said her Council welcomed the announcement of the summit and looked forward to the opportunity to gain clarity on alignments and impacts and to hear how other councils were managing the challenges and opportunities.
Toowoomba and Surat Basin Enterprise CEO Ali Davenport said the summit would establish a forum for collaboration among councils looking to create new economic opportunity, while minimising impacts on local communities.
“There are 36 local government areas along the Inland Rail alignment and businesses and communities are looking for certainty so they can continue to plan and get on with delivering the jobs and economic growth this infrastructure will bring,” Davenport said.
“We are looking to bring as many local government, state and federal government agencies and economic development groups along the route together in September.
“We are shaping the event program over the next few weeks and are seeking input from councils this week at the General Assembly.”
ARTC’s Interim Chief Executive of Inland Rail, Rebecca Pickering, assured the organisation would put its full support behind Toowoomba’s Inland Rail Summit.
“To have so many stakeholders in the room at the same time to share their views is a wonderful opportunity for us as an organisation,” Pickering said.
“Local government is the bedrock which underpins these communities, councillors are the local champions of development of regional Australia and see first-hand the opportunities and challenges Inland Rail will bring.
“We are working with local government right through the design and delivery process to ensure that Inland Rail is delivered to the highest standards and with minimum disruption to these communities.”