Karen Shires, mother Yvonne Robb and husband Robb Shires stand in front of their Elimbah squash farm crop ruined by Queensland Rail Elimbah Stabling Yard facility.
Karen Shires, mother Yvonne Robb and husband Robb Shires stand in front of their Elimbah squash farm crop ruined by Queensland Rail Elimbah Stabling Yard facility.

Farming family claims ruin at hands of Qld Rail

AN Elimbah family of farmers claim their lives have been ruined by at least $500,000 of damage caused by a Queensland Rail (QR) train holding facility.

QR is 'aware of the issues' and has offered to compensate retiree Yvonne Robb, her daughter Karen Shires and son-in-law Ray Shires for the financial burden it has imposed. But the trio said the remuneration package offered would only cover a fraction of the figures quoted by an independent accountant.

"I don't think anyone understands just how much this has affected us," Ms Shires said. "We've got maybe five months to go (before we run out of money) or we'll have to leave our house."

Queensland Rail Elimbah Stabling Yard facility drawings. Farmers directly opposite from '9' have a compensation claim with QR.
Queensland Rail Elimbah Stabling Yard facility drawings. Farmers directly opposite from '9' have a compensation claim with QR.

Mr Shires took over the management of the farm north of Caboolture, which they say operated as a successful strawberry producer for 25 years, in 2010 after the elderly Ms Robb's husband died.

Mr Shires repurposed the land as a squash farm, peaking at 51,000 plants in October 2015 before work began on QR's new Elimbah Stabling Yard facility.

The facility, which is directly opposite the property on Beerburrum Rd, was contracted to multinational builders CPB Contractors, responsible for major projects such as the new Western Sydney airport.

Mr Shires said he complained to site managers when run off from the construction site began pouring like 'a fire hose' into the farm's dam through a small pipe.

Large amounts of silt filled up the dam and irrigation pipes, and destroyed squash crops.

"I put in a complaint about the condition of the run-off water and dust, but they didn't seem to care, so I started taking water samples just to reinforce the argument," he said.

 

Elimbah farmer Rob Shires has taken photo evidence of four year's worth of alleged Queensland Rail damages caused from the Elimbah Stabling Yard facility.
Elimbah farmer Rob Shires has taken photo evidence of four year's worth of alleged Queensland Rail damages caused from the Elimbah Stabling Yard facility.

He said the six-to-nine-month earthworks lasted more than two years, prolonging their pain.

A QR email later admitted it did not have its own environment management plan in place from the beginning, rather leaving it up to CPB Contractors.

"Construction works were carried out under the provisions of CPB's Construction Environment Management Plan, which included controls to manage air (dust) and water emissions from the construction site," it read.

CPB was contacted for comment, but did not respond.

QR offered to buy blinds and airconditioning for Ms Robb to block out dust and light pollution through the night. QR has since begun using a number of chemicals to clean its carriages at the stabling facility.

It recently made a second compensation offer to the family which was also declined.

 

Queensland Rail CEO Nick Easy said he is aware of the issues raised by the farmers. (AAP Image/Dan Peled)
Queensland Rail CEO Nick Easy said he is aware of the issues raised by the farmers. (AAP Image/Dan Peled)

"Queensland Rail is aware of the issues raised by an adjacent property owner and is continuing to engage with them in order to address this matter," QR CEO Nick Easy said.

"As the matter relates to ongoing discussions with the property owner, Queensland Rail is unable to provide further details."

The Department of Environment and Science (DES) has since conducted an investigation into the construction of the stabling facility.

But a DES spokesman said it could not release the findings because it may prejudice the ongoing compensation claim the farmers have with QR.