A new regional Inland Rail office will soon be opening in Moree, providing the wider Narrabri to North Star communities with somewhere to go with their questions and concerns about the major infrastructure project.
Minister for Regional Services, Decentralisation and Local Government and Federal Member for Parkes Mark Coulton announced the news during a visit to Moree on Friday and said the regional Inland Rail office will give communities and local businesses from Narrabri to the Queensland border the opportunity to connect with departmental staff face-to-face to better understand the process and discuss potential benefits.
"The office will be a starting point for people who might have any issues or questions to pop in and chat to people," he said.
"The staff in this shop will be liaising with the community around a broad range of issues and some of the infrastructure that will come off the Inland Rail, with intermodal sites and the like.
"They'll be able to consult with community members and they'll have the ability to put them in touch with who they need to be in touch with.
"I think it'll be a two-way street. It'll not only be a place where Moree people can get access to information about the inland rail, it'll be a way to feed back into the organisation the information sentiment that's coming through the door. It'll keep things running smoothly."
Mr Coulton said Inland Rail is already in talks with Moree Plains Shire Council about scouting a location in Moree's CBD for the office, with recruitment for the new position to begin in August.
He said Moree was chosen as the location for the regional office because of its central location between Narrabri and the Queensland border.
Moree mayor Katrina Humphries said she was delighted by the announcement and looked forward to the office opening shortly.
"It is great to see that our federal counterparts recognise that the Moree Plains can play a pivotal role in unleashing regional development opportunities off the back of this nation-building project," she said.
The Moree office will complement the other regional hubs already established by the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Cities and Regional Development in Toowoomba, Dubbo and Wodonga.
It will enable regular and direct engagement with communities and stakeholders throughout the three years of the Inland Rail construction.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack said the Moree office will maximise local connections to the national freight rail network.
"It's vital that our public service understands and serves the public and what better way to do this than employ local people to work with and among local communities," he said.
"Regional officers play a vital role in guiding and connecting local communities and industry to information, support networks, local procurement and employment opportunities."
The Moree office will also play an integral role in supporting the government's $44 million 2019-20 budget initiative to develop strategic business cases for the Inland Rail Interface Improvement Program.
"I'm hopeful that Moree will receive some of those funds to actually build up its business case for its intermodal proposal," Mr Coulton said.
While Moree already has several intermodal facilities, Moree Plains Shire Council is hoping to develop a larger intermodal terminal.
Mr Coulton hosted a round table discussion between the department, Inland Rail and local farmers and grain traders during his visit to Moree on Friday.
"It's about looking at the coordination of the approaches to what facilities will possibly be needed and locations," he said.
"That discussion today is to open up the lines of communication so that we can start to work towards having a plan that can be progressed and ultimately funded and constructed.
"This is a very, very big piece of infrastructure. It's the biggest project we've seen in rail, probably in this country, for a long, long time."
Mr Coulton said he believes the benefits for Moree and surrounding areas will be huge.
"I think there's opportunity for not only cheaper freights for farmers with grain, but ultimately, I'm hoping to see industry relocate here," he said.
"The Inland Rail is not just going from Melbourne to Brisbane, it'll actually be connecting every capital city in Australia, so provided we've got communications and available land, there's no reason why you couldn't have a distribution warehouse, or a light industry or whatever based in Moree where you've got a quality of life, plenty of land, reliable workforce and already we will see, as construction commences, the proponent in there for Indigenous employment and procurement.
"We've already been speaking to several of the local Aboriginal groups in town about their desire to make sure that there's good permanent jobs to come out of this and that sort of thing flows through the whole community because when people are gainfully employed, a lot of the other social issues we deal with become less."