Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Moree Rail to Yamba Mega Port Scheme: "They probably want to fill the carriages up with water and take them back"

In 2012 Clarence Valley Mayor Richie Williamson probably thought he was sarcastically joking when he remarked about Australian Infrastructure Development Pty Ltd’s scheme to build a Yamba mega port at the end of an inland freight rail line: "They probably want to fill the carriages up with water and take them back".

We now know from presentations done by this company that it is actually spruiking the option of a water pipeline beside the proposed rail line from the port to Moree [Project 1: Port Yamba Regeneration, Slide 11 at].

We also know that this option is being taken seriously in some quarters.

The July 2016 ordinary monthly meeting minutes of Namoi Councils Joint Organisation (representing eight Murray-Darling Basin local government areas) show that this body is considering both the inland rail to port plan to industrialize the Clarence River estuary and a plan to build at least three to four dams on Clarence River tributaries, pipe the water over the Great Dividing Range into a purpose built hydro-electric scheme before discharging it into the inland river system for the use of irrigators and mining operations in the basin.

Map of Endersbee version of dam & divert proposal,

Although the scheme favoured by current Murray-Darling Basin lobbyists differs from the incredibly ambitious scenario Australia Infrastructure Developments appears to have briefly considered if this Facebook post by one of its named shareholders, Richard Wells, is any indication:

As the Namoi councils organisation appears to be favoured by the Baird Government and enjoys a close working relationship with the Dept. of Premier and Cabinet, Clarence Valley communities cannot afford to laugh off the lobbying being done in support of either of these two schemes.

Especially with regard to the Yamba port scheme as there are two planning documents, one state and one federal, which show that Liberal-Nationals governments may yet be inclined to entertain this appalling proposal:

Future strategic planning by Sydney Ports will include the regional ports of Eden and Yamba. [NSW Freight And Ports Strategy, 2013]

The national ports strategy suggests a focus on major ports; however smaller ports face similar challenges. Minor and regional ports play a vital role in the national economy and are encouraged to opt-in and participate. To the extent relevant, the plans should fit in with the Council of Australian Governments’ directions for city planning and the national land freight strategy which is being developed. [Australian Government, Infrastructure Australia – National Ports Strategy, 2011]

As for the Clarence River catchment dam and diversion scheme, it is well to remember that the last time the federal government entertained that idea both state and federal governments were Coalition - just as they are today.

The only real difference is that Malcolm Turnbull has gone from being Australian water minister in 2007 to Australian prime minister in 2016.

It’s time for concerned voters to make their views known to Premier Mike Baird and demand that the valley’s social, cultural and economic interests are not sacrificed to further the greed of private corporations, foreign investors and inland councils.

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