Tweed Shire Council has welcomed Friday’s (February 2) announcement of a $6.5 million federal grant for the Tweed Valley Rail Trail project, matching the funds committed by the NSW Government last year.
Federal regional development minister John McVeigh announced the funding as part of the Regional Jobs and Investment Program in Murwillumbah.
Tweed deputy mayor Reece Byrnes said the announcement meant the project to build a 24-kilometre long trail trail from Murwillumbah to Crabbes Creek was now fully funded, with more than $13 million committed.
‘I welcome today’s announcement by the federal government of Tweed Shire Council’s success under the latest funding round for the Tweed section of the Northern Rivers Rail Trail,’ Cr Byrnes said.
‘The rail trail will be a great injection into our tourism and small business sector, particularly in Murwillumbah.
‘Make no mistake, this is a community victory and one we all share.
‘This announcement comes after years of tireless work from members of the community and in particular the members of the Northern Rivers Rail Trail Board,’ Cr Byrnes said.
But not all of his constituents, and indeed north coast residents generally, are in support of the move.
The Northern Rivers Railway Action Group said it was ‘deeply disappointed in the news of federal funding for the Murwillumbah to Crabbes Creek Rail Trail/bike path’.
Spokesperson Beth Shelley that when legislation was passed in parliament in 2015 closing the heavy rail line in Newcastle, SMH quoted then Premier Mike Baird as confirming that ‘much of the land used for the current rail corridor would be open for development’.
Ms Shelley said, ‘It has been stated very clearly in the minister’s speech to the parliament over the Tumbarumaba Rail Trail legislation that closing the railway line means the land would become crown land. It is possible that the state government could then decide to open the Casino to Murwillumbah railway for development.’
‘State Rail owns a large section of Byron CBD and is already attempting to sell some of that land, despite needing to take it to parliament first, so it’s not hard to see that once the government gets the chance they would happily sell the whole corridor.’
‘The popularity of the Byron train is proving how many people would like to use trains in this area. There has never been any public consultation on whether the local community wants to keep the Casino to Murwillumbah railway line for future trains in the region,’ Ms Shelley said.
But the chairman of the Northern Rivers Rail Trail Board, John Greer, said the rail trail was ‘the best way to keep the land the rails are on intact and preserve it for community use’.
‘What is really special about this… is seeing federal, state and local government representatives getting behind a project which will have so many positive outcomes,’ Mr Greer said.
‘This shows what can be achieved when different levels of government work together and are focused on a common goal,’ Mr Greer said.
Tweed to deliver
Tweed Shire Council will be responsible for delivering the project and the council’s Director Engineering David Oxenham said the next step is to begin work on detailed concept designs.
‘This announcement is great news, especially for all the people in our community who have worked hard to make it happen but there is still lots of work to do before the project gets underway,’ Mr Oxenham said.
The NSW State Government announced in August 2017 that it would commit $6.5 million to the rail trail in Tweed Shire, which it sees as Stage 1 of a larger Northern Rivers Rail Trail along the full length of the Murwillumbah to Casino rail line.