A NSW Greens MP says Byron Shire Council’s close vote last Thursday to support a rail trail thereby weakening protection for the railway corridor is not a green light for the controversial $75 million Northern Rivers Rail Trail proposal.
Dr Mehreen Faruqi MLC, the Greens’ transport spokesperson, says the closeness of 5-4 vote (progressive councillors Simon Richardson, Duncan Dey, Basil Cameron and Paul Spooner against) not only weakens the corridor protections but jeopardises future public transport for the northern rivers.
Ironically, Greens defector Cr Rose Wanchap voted with the pro-development faction.
‘The government has said that it would only pursue a rail trail if it had broad community support and the closeness of the vote shows that this is far from the case,’ Dr Faruqi said.
‘To say that a rail trail would preserve the rail corridor is incorrect. The reality is NSW already has the strongest protections for rail corridors of any other state.
‘The $70 million earmarked to rip up the rail line would be much better spent on real transport solutions for this burgeoning region.
‘The community rightfully want commuter transport that connects large regional centres to other cities and towns.
‘Converting the Casino-Murwillumbah line to a rail trail would be a death knell to any hope for public transport solutions that are desperately needed in Byron Bay and the northern rivers region.
‘Rail trails can be great for recreation and tourism purposes in some circumstances, but not at the expense of essential regional public transport services.
‘We should be reinstating regional rail services as a priority and building rail trails alongside them,’ Dr Faruqi said.