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Byron Shire
July 15, 2024

Rail trail/light rail splits Greens 

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Ballina Greens MP Tamara Smith. Photo Tree Faerie.
Ballina Greens MP Tamara Smith. Photo Tree Faerie.

Hans Lovejoy

Local NSW Greens MP Tamara Smith has publicly stated her support of rail trails and highlighted the cycle tourism potential in the electorate, creating a policy division with the Greens-led council over the disused railway line.

It’s a move that has been downplayed by Greens mayor Simon Richardson.

At the April 20 council meeting, a $200,000 Multi Use Rail Corridor study was voted upon by the Greens-led council. Council staff have been asked to prepare a tender and the cash will come from the Infrastructure Renewal Reserve.

Cr Paul Spooner, from Labor, and Nationals-aligned councillor Alan Hunter voted against the motion.

Yet Ms Smith spruiked rail trails in NSW parliament on May 10 and said she has accepted a promise from the transport minister that rail trails will stay in public hands.

Her speech was part of the debate around the Transport Administration Amendment (Closure of Railway Line between Rosewood and Tumbarumba) Bill 2017 which aims to turn that public railway into a rail trail. Tumbarumba is on the western edge of the Snowy Mountains.

She said, ‘The Greens believe that this trail is an exciting project but we want it in writing that it is not paving the way for the privatisation of public spaces.’

‘[If it stays in public hands] this rail trail will be a guiding light for cycle tourism in Australia.’

Six weeks ago Ms Smith said she had the ‘good fortune to visit the Queenstown Cycle Trail and the Otago Central Rail Trail in New Zealand.’

Economic benefits

‘In the Central Otago area, farmers embraced the rail trail. They were not supportive of the trail in the beginning and it took some time for them to see the economic benefits.

‘A beef farmer and his family – I cannot remember his name – are now making more money from cycle tourism than they make from their beef. The model that the Otago Central Rail Trail Trust followed is one that I believe is very sound for Rosewood to Tumbarumba and for my region.

‘No matter how many times ministers say the train is never coming back, people are very concerned about public transport. They say that we do not know what disruptions will occur in the future.

‘I will not go to the next election – if I am pre-selected – with this ridiculous scenario where The Greens do not support cycle tourism.’

Byron Shire mayor Simon Richardson. Photo Eve Jeffery
Byron Shire mayor Simon Richardson. Photo Eve Jeffery

Multi-use rail plan

The Echo asked the mayor now Ms Smith has come out in support of rail trails, ‘does this change your multi-use rail plans?’ 

He replied, ‘No. This is old news. It’s great to see state pollies begin to understand we are strong when we include all needs.

‘The purpose of the Byron Line and [the] current feasibility process now underway is to pursue an on-track shuttle service with a rail trail alongside, and uniting rail and trail user groups.’

‘It’s never been disputed that cycling tourism can be great, especially for areas that wish for more tourists, have little need for mass transport options for locals and are beset with a struggling agricultural and farming sector.

‘This was accurately outlined recently by Tamara. 

‘Fortunately, Byron does not fit into any of these categories, so it is exciting that we are soon to undertake a feasibility study to map out how we can establish a mass transport shuttle serve to get our visitors out of their cars and disperse them around the Shire and to move our locals around, as we need and to enhance our already vibrant agriculture sector. 

‘No longer pitting rail and trail groups – what an added benefit! This is the essence of the Byron Line; having a shuttle service alongside a rail trail – having our cake and eating it too – and uniting the community.

‘This could be the biggest economic, environmental and social game-changer in our history: jobs, mobility and emission reduction benefits and it’s appropriate that we in Byron flesh out the possibilities within this use of the corridor.’

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  1. Dear Simon Richardson,

    Please do not waste our $200,000 of ratepayers money on this so called Byron Line feasibility study.

    Please instead, talk to anyone that has walked sections of the line, to find that they’ll no doubt agree that it simply is NOT possible to have trains and trails co-existing on our corridor without massive costs and engineering solutions, and defacing the very value of the corridor itself, in the process.

    Please hold our $200,000 and just take a walk yourself.
    You’ll be amazed how easily your questions will be self explanatory within a few kilometers, without spending a cent and wasting valuable time as well.

    • I agree with Tim Shanasy and his comments about wasting $200,000.00.
      Since when have Byron Council taken ownership of the rail corridor anyway? It is public land not owned by any council.
      The money would be far better spent on establishing the rail trail through the council area.
      For once the green MP, Tamara Smith, is thinking out of the blinkered North Coast green envelope.

  2. Simon is not a practical bloke.
    Simon is pandering to voters
    (Who probably need discounted travel )
    Simon needs to do some sums
    Simon needs to walk the rail line
    and see the rail line decay,
    Coming from a practical aspect with $$$$
    Simon will not find more Coal Barons
    To fund a fantasy train service!

    How disfunctional can the BSC greens be?

    The Bone will be pointed real soon .

  3. Simon Richardson has declared a lack of interest in a rail trail because his Shire is one which does not wish for more tourists, has a need for mass transport options for locals and is not beset with a struggling agricultural and farming sector. How out of touch is this mayor that he cannot see that not all in the agricultural and tourism sectors are prospering under his watch and would not benefit from a very different, lower impact tourism than which focused on booze, drugs and music? How far has Richardson strayed from his green principles that he the cannot see that people pedaling through the shire, staying and eating at smaller local enterprises is a very different sort of tourism, and dare I suggest a more welcome one than fly-in party-goers. How arrogant too that he lectures neighbouring councils to follow his wasteful Byron Line proposals but does not care about their wish to develop sustainable tourism along the line. And as for his reference to a need for mass transport – beyond luxury tourist focused rail, what has this mayor done to facilitate real public transport. The Byron Shire was the only one that did not provide support to the proposals for improved commuter bus services from Lismore. And what has Richardson to say to the woman who wrote to the Echo recently that had to taxi into town because she faced a wait of hours to get from the hospital into town? What sort of green council is this that cannot even provide transport to and from its hospital? Now Tamara Smith has recognised the benefits of a rail trail, but Richardson refuses to admit that he has got it wrong. Our region is the poorer for the efforts of those who block the growth of appropriate, sustainable tourism as an alternative to the Gold Coast high rise and Byron-style party central that can do so much damage to our environment and community.

  4. One beef farmer with a forgotten name makes some money selling steak burgers to some cyclists- Well that’s great, all the people who will never get a chance of getting out of their house, go to uni, or get to the beach will thank her in many years to come!

    How many people will die because they were never given the choice of travelling on safe rail transport- the safest transport there is, thank Tamara.

    Doesn’t anyone realise that most railtrailers are on the coast, and they don’t want Westie trash there. No, they don’t want Indigenous, the poor who can’t afford to live on the coast, the elderly, homeless or disabled to mess up their own personal coast!

    Turncoat Tamara deserves a big party. Let’s plan it in 3 weeks? A nice sunny winter’s day out in the street in her neighbourhood.

    Tamara – Yesterday!

    Tamara- Green on the outside – Blue inside!

    • What on earth has restoring the train and the rail trail got to do with people”getting “out of their house, going to uni, or getting to the beach. There are bus services that run the length of the train corridor and while they could be improved, they run more frequently than the train ever did or ever could. The rail does not go near the Southern Cross Uni campuses in Lismore or the Gold Coast. A large number of transport dependent people are not “Westies”. Restoring the the train service will do nothing to improve access to facilitates for low income people like the indigenous population on the lower Richmond, or the many elderly people living along the Ballina and Tweed Coasts. Nor could a train service affordibly address the problem of access to transport for people working or socialising late at night – services which if they are to happen are much more affordably provided by buses. In respect of the issue of people dying, US and UK statistics show long distance coaches are at least as safe as cars. The greater problem is people dying in cars and we know from surveys and the experience here and elsewhere that people will not stop using cars to a catch what would be a very infrequent train service for any of your Westies, and unless ratepayers are willing to spend many hundreds of dollars subsidisng fares, a service that would cost far more than they could afford. Your concern with the transport needs of low income people is commendable Distressed Pensioner, but you need to address that in the way that gives the most access to the most transport dependent – read the regional transport plan and it will outline the issues for you very clearly . The Greens Sustainable Tourism policy states: “Investment in tourism will bring jobs and economic growth to rural and regional Australia, and encourage the protection of our natural places and the preservation of our heritage and cultural diversity.” Tamara’s support for the rail trail is consistent that approach and shows a genuine commitment to Green values. Finally when you remember the name of the beef farmer tell me – cycling makes me hungry and I like my steak!

      • Petrus,

        Talk with people in Casino and Kyogle, you’d find many who remember taking the train to the coast for the day; unless they drive, they’re not going now; they don’t like buses.

        We’ve heard you praise buses before; there are reasons people cannot use buses, particilarly over regional distances. ‘Coaches’ don’t get used for this.

        I’ve used ‘coaches’ when much younger; they were slightly cheaper long ago. People rarely use a ‘coach’ with rail available.

        The list – one more time-

        Toilets on coaches can’t be used by many, but are great on trains!

        People are not allowed to eat on buses; you get burnt trying to swallow a hot pie in a 15 minute stop!

        You can’t really read or use a laptop, and you can walk about.

        I met my partner, and my sister met hers, onboard a rail vehicle or transfer from one.

        Buses can jerk around, and the bloody bumps are different in a bus than a car.

        Rail can offer a café bar, observatory, snack bar, dining, extra comfy reclining seats, or business class compartments, or a conference car for NOROC meetings.

        They easily take wheelchairs, strollers, prams and bicycles!

        Tourists love them!

        • Distressed Pensioner. I do not just praise buses I use them – earlier this month I caught one from Sydney to Canberra a fortnight ago and as always it was a smooth and pleasant trip. On your points:
          Toilets. We are talking about the Northern Rivers Branch line. Countrylink advise they can make arrangements for people on longer trips to use public facilities if that is necessary.
          Food. You can eat on all the coaches I have used – for the comfort of others all the coach companies ask people not to eat hot food – that is what customers prefer. However if people need to eat hot food for some dietary reason they can arrange that with the driver.
          Comfort – modern coaches are perfectly comfortable over the distances in our area. I suspect the North Coast train was much smoother – and gets smoother every year in people’s memories.
          Facilities. Toots proponents tell us what they want is a frequent commuter service on the line. Do you really expect it will provide a café bar, observatory, snack bar, dining, extra comfy reclining seats, or business class compartments, or a conference car for NOROC meetings.
          Finally I note that Canberra commuter buses easily take wheelchairs, strollers, prams and bicycles (the latter on a rack on the front), whereas Country link trains require people to box your bicycle.
          People in the Northern Rivers were surveyed about public transport – the main thing they are looking for is good timetabling. The possibility of a train was sixth on the list of things that would encourage them to use public transport – timetabling issues like frequency, route and the length of day of the service were all more important – and they are all more cheaply addressed by buses. If you actually care about public transport users in the region you need to listen to what potential users are saying and push for the better timetabling to where people want to go that only buses can provide. Restoring the train would just take money that could improve public transport to provide an infrequent rail service that would do nothing that a bus does not already do. It is all very well making emotional pleas about public transport but governments need to provide the best possible services to all potential users – not just a selective and noisy minority who happen to live near the legacy transport corridor.

  5. How about public transport to Pumpenbil. The train never stopped there and never will. A reliable bus service can and as the region changes so can bus routes and timetables.
    Bring on reliable mini, medium and big shuttle bus services and railtrails.


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