By Luis Feliu
Tweed Shire Council has rejected a push by neighbouring Byron shire for multi-use of the defunct Casino-Murwillumbah rail corridor for both public transport and a walking/cycling trail.
The debate over what to do with the disused corridor has raged for years since the rail line was closed in 2004, with supporters of preserving the corridor for a future light rail link opposing plans to convert the public land into cycling or ‘rail trails’.
Tweed council has for the past year been pushing its own project for a rail trail and seeking federal funding for the $13 million project to use a section of the line from Murwillumbah station to Crabbes Creek as a cycling/walking trail as a tourist draw.
But mayor Katie Milne is opposed to the plan, wanting council to preserve the rail line rather than build over them for the trails.
At last night’s meeting she narrowly failed to gain support for council to re-consider its plan and look at building the rail trail alongside the existing rail lines and diverting the trail in sections away from the corridor where necessary.
Labor’s Cr Reece Byrnes joined conservatives Crs Warren Polglase, James Owen and Pryce Allsop in scotching her move, while the four also supported a council staff recommendation not to take up Byron council’s invitation to join in a feasibility study for multi-use of the corridor and seek government funding for it.
Tweed Council received the letter from Byron shire recently, saying Byron council had decided last December show the state government there was widespread support for multi use of the rail corridor, to push for a feasibility study and seek funding.
Byron shire’s director of infrastructure services Phil Holloway asked Tweed council to consider investigating a variety of uses for the rail corridor and join Byron in its quest.
But Tweed shire’s engineering director David Oxenham said in his report to council that the tweed was not in a position to join Byron as the proposal was ‘problematic and had the potential to compromise the entire Tweed Valley Rail Trail proposal and ‘ultimately the entire trail from Murwillumbah to Casino’.
This was because council has previously endorsed it to be used as a walking and cycling trail only and had made its recent funding submission along those lines.
Byron council plans to meet with community lobby group Friends of the Byron Line, local MPs Tamara Smith and Ben Franklin and representatives of Regional Development Australia (Northern Rivers) to work on a feasibility report ‘in order to present a formal, costed and community supported project within the rail corridor to achieve local transport and tourism benefits within Byron shire’.