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Byron Shire
December 3, 2022

Rail trail the way to go: just ask New Zealand

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Gordon Hayes, East Ballina

At 82 years of age, I reckon that I’ve cycled several thousand kilometres in my lifetime. I ride regularly with a group of Byron seniors around various locations in the Northern Rivers. I have also enjoyed riding on rail trails in Victoria, where it is very popular, and overseas in Germany, Austria, Portugal, Belgium, Holland and New Zealand.

Riding the Goldfields Rail Trail in the South Island of New Zealand I spoke with owners of various retail outlets, cafes, restaurants, bike shops, B&Bs and pubs. I asked what the Rail Trail meant to their local economy. They were full of pride and answered that it had contributed an additional $40 million per annum to their region – $40M!

Schools that had closed – as parents had moved their children as local jobs dried up – were reopening. Some had converted to offer accommodation to the cyclists and walkers who trekked the trails and were flourishing.

There was a real sense of an old community spirit being reinvigorated in the small towns we cycled through. Rail trails (cycling and walking) are good for the local economy and a wonderful way to reengage a community livelihood – we need more of them.


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