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Using the rail corridor wisely

Brunswick Community Care (BCCC) raised the idea of establishing community housing mobile home parks on railway land over 10 years ago.

The rail corridor between Casino and Murwillumbah includes a minimum 20m buffer zone either side of the tracks and additional lands were used for sidings, storage, workshops and station buildings.

We’ve attended many Affordable Housing forums over the years to spruik the idea and spoke with councillors, community housing, welfare organisations and local builders featuring their small homes at these forums.

Our goal is to establish small low impact clustered housing sites along the rail corridor particularly around the disused stations in smaller communities with easy access to water/sewer/power connections.

With the potential to develop local housing initiatives and assist low income residents and local communities.

Community Care spoke to rail lands manager about leasing the Station Street land (which has had horses agisted for years) as we wanted a trial site close to town and services for over 55s who are facing serious housing stress.

Unfortunately, rail managers were only interested in commercial development and outright refused to consider any type of housing/residential use, claiming the soil is toxic.

Erecting Woolies food store and council chambers is not a health risk to staff or clients as they’re protected by a concrete slab and tarmac carparks!

Just last year council established a truck car park (after closing Byron Depot) next to Mullum station. Yet kids play and are exposed to these toxins at Railway Park, the pre-school and at the nearby community gardens, which is surrounded by railway lands.

No soil testing has been done on these sites but BCCc funds are available.

It’s almost two decades since the passenger train was derailed and even longer since toxic substances were stored or used in these areas.

There may be noise issues if the trains/trail walk were (re)-established, as has happened in Byron.

Which is why our preference is for above ground relocatable houses to avoid flooding and toxins and any change of use.

It’s a great idea and this push to sell off our public land may just be the impetus needed to get this project moving along.

Michele Grant, president, Bruns Community Care Council


4 responses to “Using the rail corridor wisely”

  1. Michele Grant says:

    I forgot to mention BSC Affordable Housing Group proposed pre-fabricated housing on the Woolworths site back in 2002-4. It was rejected without any explanation and the land was later sold to Woolies. NSW Rail (now managed by Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) is owned by State Gov and now manages all rail property – it has a huge amount of unused crown land on the North Coast – Our proposal is to lease the land so our public land is retained for public use instead of being flogged off to Commercial interests.

  2. Len Heggarty says:

    Michele,
    This year is 2018 and the train stopped in 2004. That means for 14 years the land has been retained as a rail corridor for a train. So to stop commercial development on the railway corridor is to make sure it remains a railway corridor for a train.
    Once the land zoning is changed and it does not remain as a railway corridor and as railway property it will be built on because it will be someone’s else’s property. That train of thought seems logical.

    • Peter Hatfield says:

      It is not a matter of changing the land use zoning to dissolve the rail corridor – not this adjacent land – but a change to the Transport Act. That could be done now to enable a sell off if parliament agreed but the model amendment – an amendment that all the main parties including the Greens supported – allows the land to become Crown Land but only for the purpose of rail trail. The wording is “Closure of railway line between Rosewood and Tumbarumba (1) For the purposes of section 99A, the rail infrastructure owner is authorised to close the whole or any part of the railway line that runs from McEachern Lane, Rosewood to Tumbarumba. (2) The authorisation of the rail infrastructure owner under subclause (1) in relation to the disposal of the land concerned is limited to the land being dedicated under the Crown lands legislation as a rail trail for recreational use. ” It does not allow for land to be built on or sold, and any change from that could not be done without going back to both houses of parliament. Some train supporters have suggested this is not so but when challenged they have never, I repeat never, been able to provide a legal opinion to explain why the amendment should not be interpreted as it is written, for “a rail trail for recreational use”.

      If people do not want the corridor sold off the safest way is to use it as rail trail, so preserving it in public hands.

  3. Michele Grant says:

    Hey Len, there’s already commercial development on the rail lands in Mullum – the Council Chambers and Woolworths, the library and a preschool further down the street – built on the buffer zone which is part of the rail “corridor”. the land for sale in Station St. is also on this buffer zone, directly opposite woolies on the other side of the tracks. On google maps the rail corridor is around 60m wide and includes the buffer zones which were provided to protect people from trains – the noise and toxins and safety issues.

    There’s also Railway Hotel in Byron and developments along the rail tracks within these buffer zones in Byron.

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