Government postpones Inland Rail Project meeting with farmers

Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack (right) postponed a meeting with NSW Farmers regarding the Inland Rail project. (inset) Coonamble farmer Adrian Lyons. Photos: Supplied and Amy McIntyre
Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack (right) postponed a meeting with NSW Farmers regarding the Inland Rail project. (inset) Coonamble farmer Adrian Lyons. Photos: Supplied and Amy McIntyre

A meeting planned between farmers and the government to discuss the Inland Rail Project was suddenly postponed last week.

The meeting was planned to take place on Tuesday, July 23 between farming organisation's including NSW Farmers and Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack.

The Deputy Prime Minister told the Western Magazine that the roundtable meeting was rescheduled due to the "deteriorating COVID-19 situation."

"Due to the deteriorating COVID-19 situation, the Deputy Prime Minister, in consultation with the National Farmers Federation, postponed an Inland Rail roundtable due to be held with farming stakeholders last week," Mr McCormack said.

"The Deputy Prime Minister regularly meets with stakeholders on a range of matters relating to Inland Rail and looks forward to rescheduling this roundtable in due course."'

Just days before the meeting was supposed to take place, NSW Farmers and the CWA of NSW announced they were progressing with legal action over the Australian Rail Track Corporation's (ARTC) handling of the Inland Rail Project.

They have engaged law firm Holding Redlich to approach the ARTC, highlighting in particular concerns relating to the ARTC's hydrology modelling.

They want the ARTC to fund an independent hydrologist, of their choosing, to look at the modelling and go through what has happened on the Narrabri to Narromine section.

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NSW Farmers' Inland Rail Taskforce chair and Coonamble farmer Adrian Lyons said the meeting was scheduled to be held via video conferencing, so was unsure how COVID-19 could be blamed for having to be rescheduled.

"We were all geared up and ready to go. I had my suspicions that he'd cancel... and once again they've hidden in the darkness to not address this issue," he said.

Mr Lyons said the meeting was planned three weeks ago and organised by the government.

"They've cancelled a meeting, which they organised... if we didn't do the legal move we did, well we probably would have had the meeting about nothing again," he said.

"It was organised three weeks ago. They pulled out right at the last minute..."

Mr Lyons said NSW Farmers wanted to have the meeting via video conference due to COVID-19 to ensure the safety of those attending.