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Cr Milne: Government fails requirements on rail trail

Do we want this? The Yarn Bomb Tram – Bendigo Tramways 302 tram is the first tram in the world to be yarn bombed. It has become a tourist attraction in its own right when it runs every winter through Bendigo’s streets. Photo Elise Gow.

Tweed Councillor Katie Milne says that the State Government has completely failed their own requirement for effective community consultation and demonstrated community support before closing the rail corridor.

Cr Milne says the Labor Party has backed the government, also refusing to hold an inquiry to even ensure proper processes or check the figures. She says the Governments own website states not once but four times, that effective consultation and demonstrated community support is required before any change to the Transport Amendment Act to facilitate the Rail Trail.

‘The NSW Government supports in principle the development of rail trails on disused rail lines where there is strong local community support.

Cr Milne, the former Mayor of Tweed, says that evidence of a viable and sustainable business model for developing and maintaining the rail trail and that effective community consultation, including engaging with adjacent landholders and the broader community to address their issues, such as potential biosecurity concerns, has been undertaken, is required for all rail trail projects.

Tweed Cr Katie Milne.

A viable business model

‘If rail trail proponents can show a viable business model and evidence of effective community consultation, prior to amending the Transport Administration Act 1988, the NSW Government will undertake an independently facilitated community consultation session for each proposed rail trail to: gauge community sentiment for a rail trail;  explain the role and responsibility of government in a rail trail project including the requirement to close the rail corridor before work on the rail trail can commence, and; respond to questions from the community and stakeholders.’

The outcomes of these community consultation sessions are provided to NSW Government to inform decisions on whether to close the rail corridor to enable work on the rail trail to commence.

Cr Milne says that contrary to claims by political parties there has been absolutely no shire wide consultation at all, let alone effective consultation. ‘The only consultation the State Government ever undertook has been a hand picked, invitation only consultation involving 40 participants.  26 of those participants included directly affected adjacent landholders, Thomas George MP, and 13 organisations.

Shocking and disgraceful

‘Tweed Council has only ever consulted the directly affected landholders.

‘It is shocking and disgraceful that what was once such an important piece of public transport infrastructure is being so arbitrarily dealt with,’ said Cr Milne. ‘The ARUP report claiming a cost of $1b that both parties have relied on has never been subject to peer review when the consequences are so far reaching and the failings of this report are fiercely disputed, and even now when Byron’s recent study has shown the feasibility for dual use.

‘Rural tourism is so important to our hinterland areas. This corridor could create many more jobs and be such a winner if a we could turn it into a substantial drawcard with heritage trams such as the Bendigo Tramway or Byron’s solar train rather that just a simple, single bike track.’

Cr Milne has suggested that a responsible State Government who cared about the economic and social development of regional areas would ask the community and review the figures with much more scrutiny and a more careful view of the long term legacy they will leave behind. ‘The prospect of dismantling the tracks and losing the potential for maximising the use of the rail corridor is something I believe future generations will shake their heads in disbelief at our lack of foresight.’

Abigail Boyd MP.

The Greens agree

Following Cr Milne’s comments, the Greens are calling on the Liberal-National Coalition and the NSW Labor party to agree to an inquiry into the Bill that would see critical rail infrastructure in the Northern Rivers ripped up.

NSW Greens MP Abigail Boyd, Transport spokesperson, said the revelation is shocking but not surprising given how upset the community is that the Bill was rammed through the Legislative Assembly just two days after it was first announced. 

The Greens tried to prevent this ill-considered Bill being rushed through by referring it to an inquiry, but Labor teamed up with the Liberals and Nationals to prevent the community having a say. And now we hear that the only consultation that did occur in relation to this rail trail proposal was with a handful of hand-picked property owners and that there were zero open community consultations in the Tweed shire. 

Ms Boyd said asks were the town hall meetings and online consultation, the opportunities for regular people to make submissions about their own towns and region? ‘It’s time to correct this enormous blunder and hold an inquiry before this Bill goes any further.’

MPs Provest, Gulaptis, Bromhead, Toole and Harris

The Greens say that both Geoff Provest MP and Chris Gulaptis MP are recorded as stating during the Legislative Assembly debate on the Bill that the New South Wales Government has facilitated extensive community consultations in the Tweed shire in October 2017 and that  Stephen Bromhead MP stated that ‘There has been a huge amount of public consultation and community input’.

The Greens also say that Paul Toole MP also stated that ‘Community consultation on the Northern Rivers rail trail first commenced with proponents all the way back in 2013. In October 2017, the Government facilitated extensive community consultation for the potential closure of the Crabbes Creek to Condong section of the railway line’.

They say that David Harris MP stated ‘It is farfetched and outrageous for The Greens to say that this is an ambush as there was no community consultation’,
and referred to the need for rail trails to be considered on a ‘case-by-case basis to ensure… that there has been extensive and proactive local community consultation to ensure there is support for a rail trail proposal’.

Ballina MP Tamara Smith

Tamara Smith ridiculed in parliament

Member for Ballina Tamara Smith said that when she said on the floor of parliament that not enough community consultation in my region had taken place on this complete loss of transport infrastructure in the Northern Rivers, she was yelled at by the Minister for Regional Roads, Paul Toole, and ridiculed by all of the Labor speakers during the debate.

The Minister for Regional Transport, the Labor Shadow Minister for Transport and the Nationals Member for Tweed completely misled the Parliament when they repeatedly stated during the debate that there had been extensive community consultation on the Tweed rail trail.

We are not taking the old parties’ words for anything! Our communities in the Northern Rivers deserve to be consulted and should not be verballed on the floor of parliament as having given full consent to this project.’

 

 

 


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27 responses to “Cr Milne: Government fails requirements on rail trail”

  1. Martin says:

    Thank you for those who stand up for our region, Abigail, Katie, Tamara and many others that work hard to support our region.
    No thank you & please go away to the National party/liberal & Labour you clearly don’t have The best thoughts for our region In your hearts or mind.
    Northern NSW needs to separate from Sydney.
    Collecting our own taxes and spending locally.
    We know what’s best for us, clearly Sydney doesn’t.
    We are not just a holiday spot.
    We deserve better government.

    • Greg Clitheroe says:

      You had better be prepared for a huge drop in revenue if you separate the Northern Rivers.

      Eighty percent of the population of NSW lives in the region from Newcastle to Wollongong. Their taxes are subsidising regional areas.

  2. Louise says:

    Democracy is a complete sham in this country.

    There’s no need to remove the legislative protection from the Casino to Murwillumbah (C-M) rail line to build a bike track-there’s plenty of room on the rail corridor for a trail and TRAINS, which thousands of Northern Rivers people have been calling for since 2003.

    While corrupt politicians steal more taxpayers’ money than it would cost to repair the C-M line for a train service, the government, aided and abetted by Eddie Obeid’s ALP, thinks it’s ok to waste hundreds of millions of taxpayers’ money destroying the valuable, publicly owned, C-M rail line to replace it with a bike track tourist gimmick, which will not return anything on taxpayers’ investment. At least nothing like a train service will in spades.

    When this tourist gimmick gets little use and lies idle and covered in weeds, they will then sell off the valuable land to some spiv to build holiday lets.

    So-called ‘green’ politicians who spend a lot of time and money investigating bike tracks in NZ, (not train services) and make themselves available for photo ops with a couple of bike track supporters, or rallies calling for the Byron By Pass to be built on the train line, but are unable to attend large rallies of train supporters, also send a strong message to the government and Labor that they’re not that serious about trains, or saving the C-M line.

    That’s why the govt and the ALP feel confident about passing legislation to remove legislative protection of the valuable rail line.

    The Rum Corp is still running NSW.

    • Ken says:

      Wow, Too true Louise !
      So heartening to hear others can see the insanity that rules this disgusting abuse of public office , while those clowns in government are supposedly searching for worthy projects on which to spend. Now on a Keynesian conversion to the real world , in order to stimulate the dead economy they have created, what better than to complete the rail connection to the Gold Coast, ensuring the prosperity in both states ?
      As you state ,’ Democracy ‘ was defeated in 1975 , now very few even know what it looks like.
      Cheers, G”)

    • Peter Hatfield, Cumbalum says:

      The Tweed Council invited tenders for the rail trail to be built beside the line and this legislation shows clearly none was forthcoming. For the greater the corridor is not wide enough, or its too low lying, requiring expensive cut, fill or parallel tunneling to build a path beside. The corridor has been weeds for fifteen years, and if its not repurposed as a rail trial that’s how it will stay. The rail trails in Victoria and QLD have not been gimmicks. The business cases for the two stages outline the projected positive return for the investment in a rail trail, and they document the usage and success of other rail trails in Australia and NZ, and so far from being sold off , they have been extended. By contrast the Ballina and the greater part of the Coolangatta line that was not used for walking and cycling paths, have been sold off. Public use protects corridors for the future, and our corridor will be protected by explicit clauses that prevent its privitisation.
      You are correct that many of our roads are not suited to cycling – do you seriously think removing the estimated less than two percent of the cars from the road will persuade people to use them? That is exactly why we need to create safe places to enable people to cycle and walk through our countryside. There are not going to be any trains to bring them back, but elsewhere private operators run shuttles to carry riders and their bikes, and unlike NSW Countrylink, they do not demand users box their cycles.
      This legislation is important as it ends the years of neglect of our valuable corridor, and puts it back intot the people’s hands for a public use, keeping it in public ownership.
      . . . .

    • Peter Hatfield, Cumbalum says:

      The Tweed Council invited tenders for the rail trail to be built beside the line and this legislation shows clearly none was forthcoming. For the greater the corridor is not wide enough, or its too low lying, requiring expensive cut, fill or parallel tunneling to build a path beside. The corridor has been weeds for fifteen years, and if its not repurposed as a rail trial that’s how it will stay. The rail trails in Victoria and QLD have not been gimmicks. The business cases for the two stages outline the projected positive return for the investment in a rail trail, and they document the usage and success of other rail trails in Australia and NZ, and so far from being sold off , they have been extended. By contrast the Ballina and the greater part of the Coolangatta line that was not used for walking and cycling paths, have been sold off. Public use protects corridors for the future, and our corridor will be protected by explicit clauses that prevent its privitisation.
      You are correct that many of our roads are not suited to cycling – do you seriously think removing the estimated less than two percent of the cars from the road will persuade people to use them? That is exactly why we need to create safe places to enable people to cycle and walk through our countryside. There are not going to be any trains to bring them back, but elsewhere private operators run shuttles to carry riders and their bikes, and unlike NSW Countrylink, they do not demand users box their cycles.
      This legislation is important as it ends the years of neglect of our valuable corridor, and puts it back into the people’s hands for a public use, keeping it in public ownership.
      . . . .

  3. Ken says:

    This case proves that this state government and liberal and national and labor parties are liars, they are corrupt and represent the enemies of the people and democracy. Most of us realise this truth but merely dismiss this criminal behaviour, as just the way politicians behave, but this is not good enough !
    There has been no community consultation, at least not outside those with a vested interest in destroying public infrastructure. There are those who see the potential of a dirty fast buck at the expense of the taxpayers of NSW, past and present . The people of NSW own this land and it’s great potential for public good, it’s fate cannot be decided a few crooked local businessmen and even more crooked politicians in the same manner as “the sports rorts fiasco”.
    Come on you people, you get the politicians that you are prepared to put up with ! G”)

    • Greg Clitheroe says:

      Ken: If you have any evidence of corruption then please contact the ICAC.

      Make your accusations specific and back them with your evidence. Otherwise you are dishonestly making unsubstantiated allegations.

      • Ken says:

        Oh come on Greg,
        I mentioned the ‘sports rorts’ look at the Murray/Darling , the Koala clearing campaign, the new coal mines on the Hunter, the Narrabri gas fiasco and everything the state government and federal are doing is either evidence of gross incompetence or is much more likely corruption. “You don’t have to be a weatherman to see which way the wind blows” as it is not a question of a specific incident it is the ‘modus operandi’ to sell the people of Australia out in a wholesale manner, as was demonstrated yesterday by the tax cuts for millionaires, which is somehow magically expected to benefit the over 1,000,000 unemployed.

        • Greg Clitheroe says:

          Ken: Just as I thought. Nothing more than unsubstantiated, unspecific allegations and innuendo. It is one of the things some people do when they have nothing to counter the facts presented. Study the facts and it will be obvious that the many hundreds of millions of dollars require to return trains to this line would be an abysmally poor investment.

  4. Jared says:

    Thankfully no more delays and whining from the anti rail trail camp. Let’s build this thing, finally.

  5. Richie Rich says:

    No wonder NSW is so far behind the times compared to Victoria, Queensland & countries like New Zealand, the USA & Canada that have all seen the benefits of transforming these disused & anachronistic pieces of infrastructure into something positive for local communities – many of which are currently withering on the vine.

    NSW politicians at all levels often talk about the importance of health, fitness, tourism & the well-being of their local economies; yet they’ll often do whatever they can to stop any of it from happening.

    Get out of the way.

  6. Joan says:

    l afraid no one in the government has listen to the people of the northern rivers who still want a rail track or light rail running from Murwillumbah to Casino, l am shocked with labour going against the people l at least thought they would be for the people. It is a valuable rail line and would be in the future if Queensland brings their rail to the border of N.S.W. They could join the two tracks together and have a fast way to the gold coast.

    • Union Street Resident says:

      Joan, I fully agree with you. How much better would it be for local people if we had a train line connecting us to the Tweed at least.

      I feel very disheartened by what Labor and the Coalition have done now and will be looking closely at alternate candidates next election.

  7. Marianne M says:

    Due diligence has been carried out thank you very much.

    Kindly remember some facts about the closure of the rail line as follows:

    Labor closed the line as usage had fallen to levels that made keeping the line running unsustainable.

    Unless those who wish to have a running railway line to Murwillumbah can prove having a railway line will be cost effective then we will have a rail trail.

    A railway line that has no one using it is just a white elephant with money that coul be used elsewhere being tied up keeping the unsupported and unsustainable railway line open.

    Having lived in Victoria in the past, railway lines down to Queenscliff were closed for the same reasons and are now rail trails. Tourism has doubled, businesses are employing more people and local are also making good use of the rail trail.

    Another nail in the coffin of the railway lines is people like to use their own vehicles when going from point A to point B.

    Sadly I would not use a railway line in Murwillumbah, why would I travel 46 kilometres to catch a train when I can drive to my destination when I want and leave it when I want and end up as my home.

  8. Geoff Bensley says:

    October 2020- The old meandering goat train line will be available for our children to walk , jump , run , ride and hop along the safe linear rail trail .
    November 2020 – Our Green politicians and Tweed Shire Council will join forces and push for the continuation of the twin track electric heavy railway line further south between Chinderah and Yelgun following the M1 as stipulated in the Tweed Shire Transport Strategy document . With support from the slow world Byron Shire Council they will jump on board also and support a continuation along the M1 corridor to Ballina with stations at all the highway exits .
    As the Greens and rail supporters are always spruiking about how much is spent on highways and roads it is time for them to push for the same amount to be spent on the future medium speed train system ( up to 160kmh).
    None of this slow snaking train going up and down every valley , it should be fairly straight like the M1.
    Now let’s watch the TOOTs administration say ‘but that is ridiculous, it would cost too much ‘!

  9. Jack says:

    How can it be called a “rail trail” if there isn’t any RAIL ?

  10. Liz L says:

    I was in Bright in Victoria, just before the border closed, on a freezing day in a pandemic. The place was buzzing with activity with cyclists everywhere. The rail trail in the area is long established in this part of Victoria and hugely popular.

    Could I please have identified any rail trails in the country that have become overrun with weeds, abandoned and sold off. A rail trail in this magnificent hinterland isn’t likely to be a passing gimmick.

    It’s one thing to argue the benefits of a rail service but throw away remarks that seek to trivialise the concept of rail trails don’t add credibility. They have been a wonderful use of what would otherwise be neglected public land – as our corridor has been for 16 years.

    In this area in particular the whole concept is in harmony with sustainable healthy tourism and an appreciation of the natural environment. It’s about exercise and fresh air and, because our shire villages are within reasonable distances they can be a viable way of commuting.

    And contrary to the narrative, not all cyclists are elitist. It’s a rather humble vehicle and Lycra’s not even a particularly expensive material!

  11. Greg Clitheroe says:

    This article clearly demonstrates just how out of touch reality the Greens have become at both State and Local Government.

    At least Abigail Boyd has stopped falsely claiming the Northern Rivers is the fastest growing region in NSW.

    The ARUP Report has been available for anyone to review for many years. The Bryon report hasn’t been reviewed either but apparently that is fine because it matches Milne’s prejudices. Any intelligent review would show it is a load of nonsense.

  12. Elizabeth Shelley says:

    Actually the Casino to Murwillumbah railway line has the speed potential of 120 km and is a much quicker trip than by our damaged and congested roads. It was neglected and not maintained properly by previous governments so speed restrictions were put in place.
    Timetabling was changed and popular services to Byron reduced so that less people used the trains and then the government could say no one was using the trains.
    There has been no real community consultation to ask what people really want.

    • Dave Ryan says:

      This is the trouble with the Rail Fans. There is no truth in what you are saying and no sense of economic reality.

      The railway never had the potential for 120 km/ h due to the grades.
      The railways never ran a commuter type service and today nearly all people drive due to convenience. And there is a regular bus service for anyone who doesn’t drive – far cheaper on the NSW Taxpayers. And buses go to far more frequently and more places than rail will ever go.

  13. Dave Ryan says:

    The Greens will never form a government and therefore will never have to think about how their rail dreams for the Northern Rivers will be paid for by the Taxpayers of NSW.

    I consider myself to be a friend of the environment and lean Green politically but I am also an economic realist. No Government will spend billions for a rail line until the population is much denser and that could be 50+ years away.

    In the meantime, we could have a tourism oriented rail trail where cyclists, walkers, runners, electric bike riders, scooter riders can travel between our towns easily and safely by staying off main roads. But this is being held back by inaction and political backpedaling and more money wasted on consultant reports.

    • Louise says:

      No one who has actually used our dangerous, narrow local roads-goat tracks-with tourists screaming along them in massive 4wds regardless, or congested roads in town, would advocate anyone risk their lives cycling on them.

      The majority of sensible cyclists want trains they can take their bikes on – as they do on the Gold Coast trains- then safely ride around towns with reduced traffic thanks to people leaving their cars at home and using trains to get around.

      Given the outrage created by the passing of this legislation we’ll get there yet. People won’t stand for this skullduggery.

      • David Ryan says:

        Thats a load of rubbish Louise.. Without spending several billions on duplication and rebuilding of the rail line and associated infrastructure (no chance of this happening), a train will not reduce the amount of traffic around the Northern Rivers. Most trips are irregular and for 99% of people, the car is more convenient.
        If people really didn’t want to drive they can catch the bus. And the evidence is that the buses have stuff all passengers anyway, except for the kids going to and from school.

        And this comment “no one… would advocate anyone risk their lives cycling on them”: That’s the whole point of the Rail Trail.

      • Marie Lawton says:

        The rail trail will replace the rotting infrastructure and noxious weeds that currently make up our corridor. The train is not coming back and there has been no government interest in resurrecting it for the past 16 years. I am a Greens supporter on most things, but cannot understand their stance on this issue. What could be greener than a cycling walking path connecting our towns and villages? Trains would not benefit the Northern Rivers and would not get people out of cars. I am overjoyed that the legislation has gotten through the lower house. Bring on the rail trail!!

  14. David says:

    Don’t passenger rail lines world wide make huge profits? Think how much Byron Shire Council could make if they ran the rail line and did the maintenance! For real cash we could start the Murwillumbah coal mines up and ship out regular bulk shipments! Who needs safe, low speed and off road cycling options?
    Keep Tourist dollars in Byron! More beer and nightclubs!

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