Coal infrastructure threatens food production and increases flood risk in Central Queensland

Published: March 31, 2014

A report released today reveals a State Government proposal would lead to major flooding and significant loss of food-producing land in Central Queensland.

The report, Railroaded: Carving up food lands for coal transport in Central Queensland, examines plans to build railway infrastructure to transport coal from mines in the Galilee Basin to Abbot Point, near the coastal town of Bowen.

The government plans to create a State Development Area in the region which will give the Queensland Coordinator-General the power to compulsorily acquire any land for railway development across more than two million hectares, directly affecting more than 900 land parcels.

The Lock the Gate Alliance commissioned the report following farmer and community concern about the government’s proposal.

Landholders’ spokesman, John Burnett, a beef farmer of Clermont said the proposal was “bad news” for Queenslanders.

“The State Government says it wants primary producers to double food production by 2040 and yet they’re putting two million hectares of good grazing and cropping country in doubt,” he said.

Thirty-five affected landholders at Clermont and Bowen resolved last week (March 24) to reject the GBSDA, demanding mining or rail companies negotiate with them directly, rather than have the government step in and compulsorily acquire their land.

The report says the flood risks and potential loss of top quality food producing land are enormous. It states that: 

  • The SDA 'precincts' affect more than 260,000 hectares of agricultural, pastoral or potential cropping/horticultural land.
  • More than 500,000 hectares of the SDA regularly experience flooding and there have been 57 tropical cyclones that have passed within 200km of it since 1906. The construction of railway lines across major floodplains will substantially change surface water flows and lead to altered flood patterns.
  • None of the rail projects proposed comply with appropriate State Planning Policy for floods, bushfires and landslides, or recent Australian engineering standards.
  • Only 1 in 20- or 1 in 50-year flood events have been planned for, and not the larger floods which pose the greatest risk to landholders and communities.
  • Such negligent cost avoidance puts at risk the communities of the region, its infrastructure and agricultural productivity. 

Public comment on the GBSDA closed on Friday (March 28). Photos, maps and graphics available on request.

The report lead author is environmental scientist Paul Winn of Hydrocology Environmental Consulting. John Broomhead, a former Gladstone Ports Corporation environment manager, turned whistle-blower, is an expert on the region. He is available for comment. 

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