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Inland workshops for local employees; up to 350 workers in rail construction to reside in Moree

Midway through 2020, the Inland Rail Skills Academy partnered with the Narrabri, Moree Plains and Gwydir Shire Councils and the LDO Group training organisation to offer construction training workshops for local job seekers.

The specialised training program, funded by Training NSW, gave participants experience in operating plant machinery to gain the necessary tickets and accreditation to work on construction sites such as Inland Rail’s Narrabri to North Star project.

One of the first participants was Jason Pearce, a born and bred Moree local.

“I saw this course as a really good opportunity to upskill with a view to gaining employment in a new industry,” Mr Pearce said.

“Country towns have suffered a lot during the past few years with the drought and now the COVID-19 pandemic, and I think it’s a really good initiative to try and bring some employment into the town and boost the community.”

Moree Plains Shire Council Regional Activation Manager Mark Connolly said there was an extremely positive response from the local community to participate in the training program.

“Many of the participants already had experience operating machinery but lacked the required qualifications to work on a construction site such as the Inland Rail,” Mr Connolly said. “The delivery of this training program will ensure our locals are job-ready for the Narrabri to North Star construction.”

Mr Connolly said many local businesses had also participated in local supplier engagement workshops and are motivated to get involved with the project. Since early in 2020, the Inland Rail Skills Academy’s been hosting workshops to help local businesses learn about supplying to Inland Rail with topics including health, safety and environment requirements; effective contract management on large projects; becoming a high performance sub-contractor; and tendering and working in major project environments.

Meanwhile, in what has been heralded as a major win for the Moree Plains, up to 350 workers involved in the construction of the Inland Rail will be accommodated in Moree.

The construction of the Narrabri to North Star section of the Melbourne to Brisbane Inland Rail is set to commence in coming months.

Council has been working with Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) and its contractors to ensure the transition to work and life in the Plains for the 350 workers is as seamless as possible.

This week, Council met with local accommodation providers as the housing arrangements for the influx of specialist contractors and their employees working on the project over the next few years are finalised. Keen to ensure that the benefits flowing to the Moree Plains are maximised and learning from the hard lessons experienced by other regions in similar circumstances, Council’s General Manager, Lester Rodgers has been leading the charge to ensure the solution is positive for all parties, including the broader Moree Plains community.

The recently completed Parkes to Narromine section of the Inland Rail employed more than 1800 workers over the life of the project.

“The project itself is going to be a massive boost to the Moree Plains economy and the flow-on benefits from hosting such a large workforce right here in Moree cannot be underestimated, Mr Rodgers said.

“With most of the workforce to be accommodated here in Moree, we have been working with ARTC and its contractors to ensure the demand for worker accommodation and catering generates positive outcomes for us all.

“Noting that work is due to kick off imminently, the final arrangements will be confirmed in coming weeks,” he said.

Mayor Katrina Humphries cannot wait to throw open the doors for the Inland Rail workforce, noting that “The arrival of a lot of workers into a centre such as Moree in a short timeframe can have significant challenges. However, we are confident that our planning and collaboration with the right stakeholders, including our local accommodation sector, means that the Shire as a whole can reap the benefits of this once-in-a generation opportunity.

“We were one of the very first councils to recognise what the Inland Rail could do for a place like the Moree Plains so we got behind this project from the very start – when funding it seemed like a pipedream,” Cr Humphries said.

“Now to have construction of the Inland Rail finally steam into our Shire, it really is fitting that we will be hosting the lion’s share of the workforce needed to deliver this part of the project. We’ve always felt that the benefits of this project will be felt far beyond the route itself – its why we have invested so much time in planning and building our relationship with ARTC.

“Inland Rail is going to bring safer, less congested highways, cheaper freight for our producers and we are excited by the new economic opportunities it will open up for the Moree Plains.

“With construction due to commence in coming months, I am looking forward to welcoming plenty of new faces to town and I would encourage community members to do the same.”

To find out more about the Narrabri to North Star section (through the Moree Plains), visit: https://inlandrail.artc.com.au/where-we-go/projects/narrabri-to-north-star/

Media Release: Tuesday, October 27, 2020