A bid to look into how $275,000 earmarked to establish a rail trail from Murwillumbah to Crabbes Creek could benefit the town if redirected to showcasing its heritage values failed at Tweed Shire Council’s last meeting.
Mayor Katie Milne sought a report on how the ratepayer money could be better spent in beautifying Murwillumbah to attract more visitors there, rather than adding it to the $13 million in public funds she says has been allocated to the ambitious Rail trail project.
The move by Greens mayor, backed by deputy mayor Gary Bagnall, ‘noted’ the Tweed Coast Cycle Way already provided a tourist cycling attraction which, unlike the rail trail, improved community transport links.
Cr Milne listed various tourist attractions already benefiting the town, including Wollumbin/Mt Warning and the Tweed Regional Gallery and Margaret Olley Art Centre.
Coincidenrtally, at the same meeting on Thursday, general manager Troy Green’s recommendation to use $90,000 of ratepayer funds to instal public-artwork ‘gateway’ installations at entry points to Murwillumbah and Kingscliff was unanimously deferred so staff can hold further consultation with stakeholders such as the local tourism body.
Mr Green proposed that $60,000 be allocated for a public artwork at the roundabout at Alma Street, Murwillumbah, and $30,000 for one to be commissioned and installed at the Pacific Highway underpass on Wommin Bay Road, Kingscliff, which serves as a gateway to the Tweed coastal villages.
In her move, Cr Milne said the staff report could look at ’the benefits the $275,000 of ratepayer funds allocated to the Rail Trail could bring to the town if these funds were redirected to investing in beautifying and showcasing the heritage values of the town to entice visitors to stop, admire and shop in the town, and the benefits enhancing the aesthetic heritage values of the town would provide for a sense of pride of place for the community’.
But the move failed to get the support of Crs Barry Longland, Warren Polglase, Phil Youngblutt and Carolyn Byrne.
Earlier in the meeting, those four pro-rail-trail councillors voted to send, at ratepayer expense, Cr Longhand and engineering director David Oxenham to Sydney to attend the Rail Trails for NSW relaunch at Parliament House on 22 March so they can lobby ministers.
Crs Milne and Bagnall opposed the move.
In another rail-trail-related issue at the meeting, Cr Milne asked if safety concerns over the ’isolated nature of the Rail Trail been taken into account and if so how will these be addressed?’
Mr Oxenham responded that emergency vehicles would have ‘full access to the rail trail, ‘so the trail would be no more isolated than any road in the district’.
Mr Oxenham said that it was ‘important to note that the longest stretch between public accesses on the Tweed section of the trail is 4.3km (gallery to Stokers Road). In comparison, the Wollumbin/Mt Warning summit track is 4.4km, not accessible by emergency vehicles, steep and rocky (ie more dangerous) and only accessible by helicopter at one end.’
He said an emergency response plan would be developed in consultation with local police, fire and emergency services and would include:
• Making all bridges/culverts capable of supporting emergency vehicles
• Location markers at regular intervals so users can identify their position to
emergency services if needed
• Installing emergency phones (like phones provided on motorways) in areas
where mobile reception is not available.