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“Moree Plains Shire already produces some of the best grain in Australia, if not the world,” says the council’s economic development manager, Mark Connolly.
“But better freight rates will mean one less barrier to putting on new jobs.”
In addressing the recent Next Crop forum at Moree, Mr Connolly pointed out the benefits of improved rail and truck efficiencies
The Inland Rail is coming, and quicker than you might imagine, with Australian Rail Track Corporation having already awarded contracts for parts of the Parkes to Narromine section. Narrabri to North star is the next leg.
Moree sits right in the middle of this activity, close to the great grain growing regions of the McIntyre, Gwydir and Namoi Valleys.
There is potentially so much more processing that could be done in Moree but for the moment the focus is on delivering product to port at the best value rate for farmers.
While the connection with Brisbane Port looks to be a decade away, the section of track south from North Star through Narrabri, the second phase of construction after Parkes to Narromine, will connect with existing track that extends all the way down the Hunter to the port of Newcastle.
Meanwhile, the commissioning of a transport study using state and federal funding will identify the best ways to stay on track with the Inland Rail.
“This about maximising community outcomes,” says Mr Connolly
The location and type of build for an intermodal grain storage facility is central to these plans. To begin with these projects will focus on bulk handling but greater containerisation is the long-term aim.
“It’s important that we take the site owner and the agricultural industry on this journey with us,” Mr Connolly says. “This project is in partnership with private funding. It can’t be government led.”
“Melbourne to Brisbane is a long-term project but if we get it right between North Star and Narrabri, the Moree district will see an immediate benefit.
Supposed big projects mooted in the past have proved disappointing, like the proposed Coca Cola plant which didn’t get up, and for which council was blamed.
“We’re a big, slow target,” reflected Mr Connolly. But the fact was Coca Cola told us water and land accounted for a small part of their investment. Key to their success was having a big labour pool and access to easy distribution of its product.
“When it comes to a grain intermodal, someone has to use this facility to make money. We need to have commerce otherwise we end up with a stranded asset.”
A CSIRO study will analyse best development to make use of the Inland Rail.
Smart sales to benefit grower
Moree-based producer co-operative, Grower Co, has commissioned the CSIRO, with funding from the Federal Farming Together program, and the ARTC, to recommend fit for purpose development surrounding intermodal facilities built alongside the Inland Rail.
As an example of not-fit, all spur lines coming out of the Hunter Valley point south to Newcastle, which is a problem for transport heading the other way.
“The CSIRO study will also look at the road system that services those sites because it is all about increasing the efficiencies of those sites and prioritising which roads are upgraded,” said John Picone, executive officer of Grower Co.
It is no surprise that truck transport is the most flexible.
To make the best use of trucks among grain producers, Grower Co is about to launch coordination technology, like an App, that will seek out the best deal, depending on how and where the grain is stored, whether there is all weather access and how quickly trucks can be loaded.
When it comes to on-farm storage Mr Picone said this was the ultimate for grain producers and in the current year it was a good time to build, if funds were available.
“Trucks will always have a job in grain transport,” he said. “At the moment a train can stop on the way to North Star and fill up at a farm but once the Inland Rail goes through that cannot happen. Grain will have to be trucked to central facilities.”
This article first appeared on www.northerndailyleader.com.au
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