March 6, 2018
A plan to use parts of the South Burnett Rail Trail to carry coal from a Kingaroy mine to port would create three new rail crossings on the Bunya Highway between Kingaroy and Murgon, according to the Kingaroy Concerned Citizens Group (KCCG).
The anti-Kingaroy coal mine group made the surprise claim last Thursday night to a near-capacity public meeting at Wondai Town Hall.
The meeting was called by the KCCG to discuss the regional effects of Moreton Resources’ proposed coal mine near Goodger, and to alert residents negative effects from the proposed mine would not be limited to Kingaroy.
The KCCG said a proposed rail route to connect the mine to port would have effects on every town and village between Kingaroy and Kilkivan.
The rail route would also resume large parts of the recently opened South Burnett Rail Trail.
The meeting was compered by KCCG president Gary Tessmann who said its aim was to prepare people who might be affected by a proposed coal rail line by presenting them with as much relevant information as possible.
This would allow them to respond to Moreton’s Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) in an informed way when it was released for public comment.
Mr Tessmann stressed the KCCG was not against mines.
“We are against mines that cause more harm than good, and we simply believe this is the wrong project in the wrong location,” Mr Tessmann said.
To prove his point, he compared Moreton’s project against Stanwell’s operations at Tarong, AGL’s Coopers Gap Wind Farm and a proposed solar farm at Woolooga on 12 points, including whether the projects were in town water catchments, whether they preserved farmland, and whether they were upwind of residential areas.
He said the KCCG had given a tick of approval to Stanwell, AGL and Woolooga but Moreton’s proposed Kingaroy coal mine failed to meet any of the same criteria.
KCCG spokesman John Dalton said he had attempted to map a rail route that Moreton Resources had provided to the Co-ordinator General as part of the company’s work to prepare an EIS.
Mr Dalton said it appeared the rail line would swing from the site of Moreton’s mine at Coolabunia to the west of Kingaroy before joining up with the South Burnett Rail Trail at Crawford.
After this it would largely follow the rail trail with bypasses around Wondai, Murgon, Goomeri and possibly Kilkivan.
This would require “three to four” Bunya Highway level crossings which would bring traffic to a standstill every time a coal train went by, he said.
Mr Dalton said the existence of a coal train line would also have a number of negative impacts on those towns including dust, noise, loss of visual amenity, reduction in land values and business disruption caused by traffic having to wait at crossings.
He then presented the results from several studies on the health effects of coal dust in adults and children, and the near impossibility of preventing coal trains from spreading it.
After Mr Dalton finished his presentation, South Burnett Mountain Bike Club secretary Jason Wyeth took the podium.
Mr Wyeth said he had done some preliminary calculations on the tonnages Moreton plan to ship from the mine each year against the capacity of freight trains to carry it away.
His back-of-an-envelope calculations had shown the company would need to run six to eight 100-carriage trains each day; and if the rail line crossed the highway three times between Murgon and Kingaroy, this had the potential to add a significant amount to residents’ travel times each year.
If the trains were smaller, the frequency of trains would be higher, and the delays they would introduce to many residents’ lives would be even greater.
Mr Tessman concluded the KCCG presentation by saying that when Moreton’s EIS was released, the public normally had 30 days to respond.
The KCCG feel this is inadequate and would like the State Government to extend this to 45 days for responses to Moreton’s coal mine proposal, and a further 45 days to respond to the company’s plans for the rail corridor.
The KCCG has made standard EIS Impact Statements available on their website
He urged as many people as possible to print them off, list their concerns, and then return them when Moreton’s EIS opened for public comment.
After this, the floor of the meeting was thrown open for comments from the audience.
Some people said the meeting was the first time they had heard about Moreton’s proposals and they were alarmed.
A florist said she was annoyed there was a lot of vagueness in the information she was seeing about the mine, beginning with exactly how far it was from Kingaroy’s CBD.
She called for more accurate and detailed reporting so the public could be more fully informed.
Another said he thought the mine would be approved and if it was, residents would either have to learn to live with it or leave.
Some recalled living in mining towns and seeing the boom-and-bust economies they created, and others said mining was not a renewable resource but food production was.
One speaker said she had lived in Townsville and could confirm rail crossings increased travel times by 10 to 15 minutes, while another reminded people any coal from Moreton’s mine would add to climate change pressures.
The meeting ended with a call for a show of hands from people who were opposed to the mine and rail line.
About 75 per cent indicated they were opposed, while a further 20 per cent indicated they would like more information.
Fewer than 10 people in the audience appeared to remain in favour of a coal mine.
[UPDATED Originally published as “Rail Crossings To Increase Travel Time”]