It is a bold vision: Eight new smart cities to be developed across the east coast of regional Australia, all connected by a state-of-the-art high-speed rail network.
In the following, we explore the full story of CLARA’s high-speed rail plans in Australia, including initial proposals and government submissions, The CLARA Plan, the ‘bushfire accelerator’, smart city conspiracy and deeper questions behind the narrative.
AUSTRALIA’S HIGH-SPEED VISION
High-speed rail has lurked in the background of Australian infrastructure policy since the early 1980s, but with new developments in advancing technologies, the vision is quickly becoming a reality.
Previous efforts under Labor to investigate the cost of a high speed rail link between Melbourne and Brisbane found the bill to taxpayers could be as high as $114 billion. It was shortly abandoned.
However, the plan would soon rise once again from the ashes, and this time the resurfacing would be accompanied with substantially more support and interest behind it.
In 2017, a bipartisan committee backed a new vision for high-speed rail, this time beginning from Melbourne to Sydney, and recommended proposals for a link between the two major cities and ways to raise private capital for the project.
The plan, as described by reports, will be used to “decentralise Australia’s urban population” by “opening up cheaper housing under a radical plan endorsed by a parliamentary committee”.
Under this model, instead of the Australian government sourcing new ways to raise revenues for the project, major infrastructure will be privately funded by the increase in land values that accompany the “creation of new or larger cities made possible by that infrastructure”.
The plan, which began planning in the first half of 2017, proposes running a rail line from Melbourne to Shepparton as the first stage of the overall development (more on this below).
On 20 September 2017, the Australian government released a Faster Rail Initiative Prospectus, seeking submissions for the co funding of up to three business cases for faster rail initiatives.
It was announced as part of this plan that $20 million would be allocated to the initiative during the opening phases, with policy objectives outlined in the budget summary:
- Ease pressure off capital cities.
- Boost regional economies.
- Open up land for more housing.
Executives from Consolidated Land and Rail Australia (CLARA) and Hyperloop One — the US-based project that plans to take commuters between the two cities via supersonic tubular capsules in under an hour.
Both companies submitted evidence to a Parliamentary Committee on Infrastructure, Transport and Cities shortly after in Sydney. The rest, as they say, is history.
THE PLAYERS: CLARA AND HYPERLOOP
Both players would soon begin arguing their case before a parliamentary committee, presenting evidence on emerging technologies that could make the unthinkable vision become a reality.
Prior to the inquiry, tech company Hyperloop One had invested in the development of the Hyperloop system to the tune of $80 million, flagging the Australian east coast route as a testing ground.
The company’s vice-president Alan James told reporters the Hyperloop reality was months away.
“This is not a ‘10 years away story’, this is not a ‘five years away story’, and literally months from now the world will be able to touch, smell and see an operational Hyperloop,” he said.
As part of their submission to parliament, Hyperloop’s futuristic transport system is envisioned as a supersonic tubular capsule capable of speeds of more than 1000km per hour along a magnetic track:
Similarly, the CLARA group also submitted a proposal to the federal government, and would call for the creation of five sustainable ‘smart cities’ — two inland in Victoria and a further three in NSW — connected by high-speed rail between Sydney and Melbourne.
CLARA told parliament that trains would travel at speeds of up to 430km/hr, and the journey between Canberra and Sydney could take just 48 minutes. This would cost an expected $75 billion.
The consortium told the inquiry it has “a plan to rebalance the Australian settlement”, building “new, regional compact, sustainable smart cities and the world’s most advanced high speed rail”.
‘Value capture’ is at the centre of CLARA’s proposal, which relies on profits made from the transformation of existing farming land into new developments in proposed locations.
The company’s chairman Nick Cleary told reporters the profit margin to developers to fund the high speed rail system would mostly drive the project, estimating land value would increase once housing and civil infrastructure is built.
CLARA remained agnostic regarding the technology that will be selected for the faster rail component. Their research showed that there were at least four viable, currently available technologies that would enable CLARA to achieve its faster rail projections.
These include new technologies such as magnetic levitation and traditional steel on wheel systems.
CLARA WINS APPROVAL
THE BUILDING BLOCKS
After an extended inquiry that heard from a number of key stakeholders, including the NSW government and others, CLARA was successfully selected as the consortium to deliver the project.
CLARA CEO Nick Cleary commented on the decision by stating: “We have been working hard for two years to get to this exciting point. To demonstrate the CLARA plan and private funding model, and in the process help solve some of the major issues impacting our nation is a great step forward”.
In a press release, CLARA spoke on the decision to be selected and also finally announced their business partners that will join the radical endeavour:
“CLARA is very pleased to have been selected for business case development with the Federal Government announced today by the Hon Michael McCormack MP, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, and the Hon Paul Fletcher MP, Minister for Urban Infrastructure and Cities.
CLARA is excited to progress the business case which will be prepared by the CLARA Consortium which includes the following companies; Arcadis, Cardno, Clarke Hopkins Clarke, CISCO, CSIRO, DLA Piper, Hitachi, McCrindle, New Best Friend, Power Ledger, PwC, Roberts Day, Slattery, Silversun Pictures, The Space Agency, V2i.”
CLARA dubbed their concept as a ‘regionalisation plan’, however, when their long-awaited proposals were released to the public, the vision quickly became something far different.
THE CLARA PLAN
Shortly after winning approval, the CLARA consortium would release The CLARA Plan, an audacious $200 billion proposal — this time wanting to build eight entirely new smart cities along a high-speed rail corridor between Sydney and Melbourne.
According to CLARA’s official website on the plan, the constructions will include the following:
“New SMART, sustainable, greenfield cities will provide greater opportunities for jobs for the existing community and the future residents of the new CLARA Cities. Further benefits of advanced healthcare, high tech education, renewable energy, recycled water and a High Speed Rail will ensure the world’s most livable cities can be delivered.
By the 2040s, CLARA aims to have a Sydney to Melbourne rail line which, using Japanese Maglev technology, would provide a trip just under two hours between the two cities.”
This is an interesting timeframe to note when you consider the push to end private vehicle ownership in Australia by 2050 and predicted advances in AI technologies during this period.
According to CLARA, land deals have already been struck in regional areas, with phase one of the development involving a $13 billion high speed rail into northern Victoria and the development of two new partner cities.
Construction was planned to begin in 2021 and the first smart city built in 2026. However, in the last 12 months of the plan, the consortium has struggled to lift the project off the ground.
This was until recent Australian bushfires conveniently created conditions to accelerate this process.
LAND CLEARED: PERFECT TIMING
At the beginning of the 2019/20 summer period in Australia, an inferno tore across the east coast of Australia that wiped out millions of hectares of bushland and communities in surrounding areas.
In what can be described as of the most widespread fires to develop in Australian history, entire towns were completely taken out by raging fires and a national crisis was declared.
In the immediate aftermath, a state of emergency was declared, with military on the ground, displacement of regional communities and calls for national reviews of land management.
While many Australians across the country rallied together in support of what was described as an “unprecedented national tragedy”, for CLARA and the government, this was a time for celebration.
By this time, government funding contribution to the CLARA proposal was up to $8,000,000, a fact sheet on high-speed rail says. Now, the aftermath of the loss of these fires will present a perfect opportunity to snatch up land that is now being cleared by harsh conditions.
Let’s not forget that before the Australian bushfires devastated the east coast of Australia, there had been serious doubts that the project would even get off the ground, after being predicted to cost north of $100 billion to fully clear land and develop infrastructure.
An industry report warned that if not acted upon quickly, buying necessary land from developers in future would cost $3.56 billion as opposed to $720m currently.
According to CLARA, the real point of a high-speed rail line between Sydney and Melbourne is to dramatically “recast the population imbalance” along the eastern seaboard.
Before the fires, two cities planned along the Melbourne and Greater Shepparton route would cost around $51 billion alone and would consist of a 30-year process to negotiate and clear all of the land.
Now, the playing field is open and conditions are ripe for the taking, with the final hurdle set to be various negotiation with local councils and power-players in devastated communities.
THE DEEPER LINKS
EXPOSED: CONFLICT OF INTEREST?
On deeper examination, four of the eight new smart cities proposed by CLARA to be constructed will be located in NSW, including one north of Goulburn.
This is an interesting development when you discover that former Mayor of Goulburn, Geoff Kettle, has backed calls for councils to secure the corridor for the high speed rail. Mr. Kettle is now Stakeholder Engagement Manager with Consolidated Land and Rail Australia (CLARA).
What are the odds of that? An executive of CLARA, lobbying the region he was a former Mayor of, to secure vital land resources for the plan to be executed.
Former NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell is also one of CLARA’S key backers. He joins fellow former state premier Steve Bracks and recently retired trade minister Andrew Robb on the advisory board.
Furthermore, CLARA has already received written support from two councils along the Melbourne to the Greater Shepparton Region corridor and three councils along the Sydney to Canberra corridor.
CLARA has hs received written support from Greater Shepparton City Council, one of the locations on fire during the summer, and Strathbogie Shire Council for their initiative.
In September 2015, 193 Member States of the United Nations adopted 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to make up the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Defined, devised and driven by countries as the most intensive international multi-stakeholder consultation in history, UN Agenda 2030 is set to become the main reference for development policies and programmes at a national level and in the push for a world government.
Agenda 2030 will change our economies, our environment and our societies, while reshaping old mindsets, behaviours and patterns of living forever.
Included in the document are Sustainable Development Goals and 169 individual targets, adopted by world leaders in a UN Summit, containing objectives expected to guide the actions of the international community over a 15-year period (2016-2030).
The Agenda 2030 plan calls for a sustainable model that introduces further measures of control of all facets of life under the guise of preventing so-called ‘unpreventable’ climate conditions in the future.
The significant linkage here is that the government fully admits smart cities are part of Australia’s significant contribution toward achievement of Agenda 2030 ‘Sustainable Development Goal’ 11.
Now, with most of the ‘resistance’ out of the way, CLARA can resume their plans to develop sophisticated smart cities along fire-devastated east coast locations.
THE PLAN MOVES AHEAD
The campaign, now back underway, is known to start from Melbourne to Shepparton, then to Canberra, Goulburn and finally completing in Sydney.
The Sydney to Canberra corridor will deliver 501,000 new dwelling allotments over a 35 year building period, accommodating approximately 1.2 million people. The Melbourne to Shepparton corridor will bring to market 334,000 new dwelling allotments accommodating 801,000 people.
According to reports, the consortium had already secured almost 20,000 hectares for new development sites along the rail corridor prior to submitting the bid.
According to CLARA’s plans, when the construction phase begins, over 55,000 jobs will be created in the Sydney to Canberra corridor and over 45,000 jobs in the Melbourne to Shepparton corridor.
CLARA is currently working with “employment sponsors” from the United States and Asia who will provide the initial 5,000 to 10,000 jobs in each of our new cities.
A vision that was once transport fantasy, floated by Australian politicians for generations and set fail before the recent Australian bushfire ‘crisis’, is now set to speed into reality.
EVIL INTENTIONS: CAPTURING THE LAND
Under the CLARA model, tracks would be elevated, meaning that land would only need to be secured for easements and crossings. This has significantly sped up the process, with Cleary suggesting the company has bought options for 40 per cent of the land needed for eight cities along the route:
“There is no reason that we can’t have this proposal under construction by 2021, and depending on when we start, that will mean bringing cities online within five years … We’ve already been able to secure around 40 per cent of the sites that we need to build our cities.”
Where will the other 60 per cent come from, you may ask? Well, a systematic land grab is currently underway in Australia, driven by an international agenda of ‘sustainability’ and control.
Prior to the Australian bushfires, CLARA admitted they were having trouble securing vital land in certain areas of the country, and that it would take years to finally secure a stable pathway.
Today, bushfire victims are in the fight of their lives against insurance companies, government agencies, local councils and state government laws in the fight to rebuild their lives.
In Exeter NSW, those who lost everything in a bushfire say they’re being charged almost $10,000 in development application fees to rebuild their homes.
On closer examination, let’s take a look at the location of Exeter NSW in relation to the CLARA Plan:
Notice anything similar? What are the odds of the location of this town — right in correlation with the beginning of CLARA’s smart city markers.
Could it be that local council in Exeter are charging exuberant fees for reconstructions of bushfire destroyed homes intentionally?
How long will it be before these victims are forced to submit and turn their properties over to be snatched up by an expanding CLARA consortium and their smart city plans?
How many other fire-effected areas are going through this same kind of ordeal?
As we continue to source information and perspectives from on the ground, stay tuned to TOTT News for any new developments on when the construction of Australia’s High-Speed Rail will begin.
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