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Byron Shire
May 8, 2021

Mullumbimby railway land set to be sold

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The land opposite Tony Carsburg Motors in Mullumbimby that is set to be sold off. Photo Hans Lovejoy

Hans Lovejoy

Another parcel of valuable railway land is now in the process of being prepared to be sold, owing to its being ‘surplus to requirements’ of Transport for NSW staff.

The large railway corridor is located in the heart of Mullumbimby, opposite Tony Carsburg Motors, and runs along Prince and Argyle Streets.

It’s the second Byron shire sale flagged by the department in recent weeks; sale of a 611sqm parcel of railway land behind the Wollongbar Motel on Shirley Street in Byron Bay is underway.

While the confirmation by Transport for NSW drew the ire of local MP Tamara Smith (Greens), The Echo is yet to hear from locally based MLC Ben Franklin (Nationals) on whether he supports the sale.

The Echo asked the government department, ‘Is this a decision by an elected official or by staff? Is there a potential buyer, how large is the area’, and, ‘will this mean that no train will ever return to this line?

A Transport for NSW spokesperson replied, ‘The land is owned by Transport for NSW and surplus to our requirements. We are in the early stages of putting the land up for sale.’

Expressions of interest

They continued, ‘The land is not needed to keep the corridor viable. The land will be put out for expressions of interest at some time in the future. The total area is still to be determined.’

Local state MP Tamara Smith told The Echo, ‘Our rail corridors belong to the community and are held in trust by the government of the day. Communities in our region (and my ancestors) lobbied for decades in the late 19th century for rail transport on the north coast to support regional economies and bring connectivity between communities in the northern rivers.’

Fossil-fuel reliant

Ms Smith continued, ‘When the government of the day decided that rail was no longer financially viable, they removed that connectivity and left us utterly reliant on cars and fossil fuels.’

‘The idea that they can now sell up that public land and place it in the coffers of a government that has leased to private corporations more than 80 per cent of our state infrastructure should disturb us all very much.

Sold the farm

‘There seems to be no end to the greed of the NSW Nationals and Liberals, who having already “sold the farm” in terms of our poles and wires, is selling off our precious public land at an unprecedented rate.

‘Our foremothers and fathers paid in blood, sweat, tears and taxes over many decades to get rail in our region. The corridors belong to the community and we decide what happens to that public land – not the bean counters in Sydney!

‘If the current government won’t support public transport along our currently disused rail corridors, then give them to us to manage and support us with grants to restore the connectivity and regional commerce that we once had.’ 

Public asset sale

The Echo asked Mr Franklin, ‘Do you support this public asset sale and if so, why? Shouldn’t politicians make these types of decisions instead of unelected bureaucrats? Are you concerned this trend would lead to no train ever being able to return to the railway line?’

The Echo did not receive a reply by deadline.


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13 COMMENTS

  1. Of course The Echo did not receive a timely response from the locally based MLC Ben Franklin (Nationals)! He has to go trotting off to Head Office for his “script” of what to say! What a bunch of lightweights, no doubt more worried about company policy & their personal political future security, than looking to the future.

    Just about all Aussie pollies are the same – incapable of looking to the future wellbeing of this country. Only personal power & security.

    Beware. We’re all getting pretty p…ed off.

  2. Any NSW government and their agency that tries to balance the books by selling off State (ie public property) Land must stand accused of inefficient and inept business practice. (not to mention economic vandalism of public property) Selling off property is a cowardly way so as not to look at tax hikes and other forms of income.

    The State government must be raking in fortunes from the increase in private land values and the taxes they make on those increases and duty taxes.

    My view is that there will come a day when an electric railway linking the North Coast to Southern Queensland will become economic, wanted and essential.

    If the present government do not have that vision, the least that they could do is help solve the housing crisis and to hand this land over to a not for profit housing cooperative and receive a modest annual income from the coop that would provide ‘rent for life accommodation’ to at least some of the hundreds of people that are being squeezed out of the area due to high land prices, the air bn b market and high private rental prices. It’s time for the State government representatives to start representing our views and not just those of the lobbyists.

  3. Larry Local – lol. What a charming and compelling way with words you have (not).

    We need to preserve the rail corridor, not have the land sold off to some politician’s family member or friend. And we can have a bicycle track too.

    • You are right we need to preserve the corridor. But this appears to be a freestanding parcel of land adjacent the corridor which, we are told: “…will be put out for expressions of interest at some time in the future”, so the process should be transparent.

      What I suggest might occur is that formally or informally the potential buyers will be advised that if it is sold off, the buyer will be given first right of refusal to purchase the adjacent corridor land. That would enhance the attractiveness of this proposed sale, particularly as buyers will be aware of the attractive price of the land proposed to be sold to an adjacent landholder in Byron Bay. As with other developers they will be keen for the Byron Shire to continue with its lack of support for the rail trail proposal, and keen to promote opposition to the rail trail, because they know the rail trial will tie up the corridor for the foreseeable future , protected by a legislative framework that prevents any sell-off without approval of both houses of parliament.

  4. The sale of surplus land outside the gazetted rail corridor has no affect on trains.

    The Echo needs to stop calling surplus land ‘rail corridor’ because that only confuses people. The fact is, and this has been confirmed by Transport for NSW, that land surplus to requirement is not part of the gazetted corridor and thus has no affect on the possibility of running trains. For the actual rail corridor to be sold, the railway line must be officially closed through an act of Parliament. This is something that has not occurred. Technically speaking, this surplus land is just extra land owned by the railway that is usually positioned alongside the rail corridor itself.

    It is also worth noting that the sale of surplus railway land outside the rail corridor is not something new and this has been going on since the 70’s. Ever wondered how the units trackside in Byron got so close to the tracks? They were built decades ago on surplus land that was sold decades ago, and yet this did not affect the running of trains. This is not something new.

    • Wayne Brown said:

      “For the actual rail corridor to be sold, the railway line must be officially closed through an act of Parliament. This is something that has not occurred.”

      That sounds very promising! If the line has not been closed, then can we please have trains again!

      Geoff

  5. Tamara Smith’s comments on train services appear to be irrelevant to this particular issue. Transport for NSW stated: “The land is not needed to keep the corridor viable” and train enthusiast Wayne Brown’s letter makes the same point. It is a large area of land near the centre of town and the community and Council need to be giving a lot of thought to what sort of use will enhance the town’s amenity while delivering a good dividend to the people of NSW.

    Tamara’s comments also inaccurate Apart from those who cycled, people in Mullumbimby were dependent on fossil fueled transport when the rail operated – the XPT was consuming a lot of diesel per passenger by the time it passed Mullum , and its replacement will be diesel powered too.

    Removing the train does not remove the connectivity of Mullumbimby. There are bus services from Mullum to the Bay, Brunswick Heads, Ocean Shores, and through to Lismore and Ballina. As I have noted many times the buses are able to go past key destination s like Byron Hospital that rail could not. While I appreciate the average six passengers per day who caught the XPT to Mullum appreciated not having to change at Casino, the coach to QLD no longer necessitates a change at Murwillumbah and the two hourly commuter service that NRRAG proposes would be slower than the current coach and would likely require a longer wait in Casino;
    .
    What Mullumbimby and other towns in the Byron Shire need is a proper analysis of its transport movements. It is to the hoped that the feasibility study for a Byron Line will go beyond its narrow term of reference and will analyse those needs, consider whether any tourist rail service that locals can use will enhance or diminish connectivity from towns in the Shire to other towns in the Shire and the region and to key destinations, and consider too how it would work with bus routes especially on the most popular routes like the Mullum – Byron Bay – Ballina.

  6. The land is part of the rail corridor – kept as a buffer zone – minimum of 20m either side of the track – also for sidings and station buildings. Bruns Community Care spoke to rail lands manager several years ago about leasing the land (which has horses agisted on it for years). Council was also informed of our interest in using Mullum railway land for mobile dwellings/affordable housing/homeless camp site – as there are toilets and water at the Station. We also looked at the land beyond the station – which Council is now using as a truck car park (and closed Byron Depot). There’s also lots of rail land around the community gardens area.
    Unfortunately rail managers were only keen on commercial uses and outright refused to consider any type of housing/residential use as they claim the soil is toxic. Apparently erecting a food store (Woolies) and the Council chamber is not a health risk to staff or clients as they’re protected by the concrete slab and tarmac carparks! No soil testing has been done on these sites but it’s almost 2 decades since the passenger train was derailed and even longer since toxic substances were stored or used in these areas.. However there would be noise issues if the trains/trail walk were (re)- established – as has happened in Byron. Which is why our preference was for an above ground mobile dwelling village – to avoid flooding/toxins – and there’s easy access to all services (water/sewer/power). We wanted a trial site for low income residents and if the tenants caused problems they could be relocated – as we hoped to have small clustered housing all along the rail corridor between Casino and M’bah – particularly around the disused stations in smaller communities and still had water/sewer connections. It’s a great idea and this push to sell off our public land may just be the impetus to get this project moving!

    • The only noise issue I noticed with the new train in Byron were the cries of excitement to their mother of two little boys on the Bayshore drive platform when they sighted the train coming in the distance. Similarly aside from the odd tinkle of a bicycle bell about the only noise you would expect along that part of the rail trail would be the happy sounds of relief and excitement by cyclists and walkers at having achieved another stage of their odyssey – presuming the keening of diehard rail enthusiasts falls away as they realise how successful and popular the rail trail indeed is.

  7. When the Brisbane to Varsity Lakes heavy rail is extended to Coolangatta/Tweed a continuation can be expected thru Mullumbimby and onto the Main North Line at Casino. Freight trains can avoid the slow Border Loop by coming via Mullumbimby. A rail freight drop off and pick on the south side of Mullumbimby Train Station will provide 24/7 jobs and public transport. Freight trains at night and commuter trains in daylight hours. Mullumbimby will prosper with this large infrastructure project .

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