The long-awaited construction of a cycleway between Mullumbimby and Brunswick Heads has taken a significant step forward, with Byron Council selecting a preferred route and commencing the design investigation process.
Creating a safe cycle link in the Shire’s north has been a topic for discussion for over a decade, but meaningful action in relation to the plan has been a long time coming.
At last week’s Council meeting, councillors received the results of a community survey that demonstrated clear support for the project as a whole and for the first of two route options.
‘The people of this Shire, particularly those in the northern towns, want it and they need it,’ Labor councillor Asren Pugh said of the project.
‘I think we need to stop mucking around and meet our community’s expectations about getting this happening.’
The chosen Mullum to Bruns route, known as Option 1, will also take in Ocean Shores and surrounding areas.
Beginning at Mullumbimby Station, the route heads north along the rail corridor until Synotts Lane, where it heads east through adjoining properties, the Brunswick Valley STP and connects to Brunswick Valley Way just north of Rajah Road at Ocean Shores.
In the recent community survey, 61 per cent of participants said they wanted this option, compared to 26 per cent who preferred the southern option that went via Saddle Road and McAuleys Lane.
The remaining 13 per cent were either unsure or didn’t support either option.
Make use of existing rail corridor
Cr Pugh said the advantages of Option 1 were that it would make use of the existing rail corridor, which removed the need for infrastructure duplication, and opened the door to possible government funding.
‘We’ve had broad level support for funding the rail trail in this part of the Shire [from the state government],’ he said.
Mayor Michael Lyon then sought to address the argument that building a cycleway on part of the rail corridor would prevent any future return to rail travel in this part of the Shire.
‘From Mullum north along the rail corridor, the idea of bringing the trains back is gone,’ Cr Lyon said.
‘The dream of any imminent return of rail north of Yelgun is over.
‘But I don’t think it’s over for the long term, and I strongly agree with the argument that holding that corridor in public hands keeps the option open for a return to rail use in the fuure.
‘Utilising it as a cycleway corridor keeps it in public hands.’
But the choice of Option 1 did not receive unanimous support from councillors.
Greens Councillor Duncan Dey argued that councillors should keep their options open, at least in the preliminary planning stage.
‘The northern route involves going through more bush than the southern route,’ he said.
‘I don’t know whether we’ve consulted with police, but I think that’s a big step that needs to be done, because it may be that we’re required legally to provide vehicle access or a level of surveillance to ensure safety.
‘I also think that with putting a path through that bush there’s some ecological issues.’
Crs Dey and Peter Westheimer put forward an alternative motion that would have seen Council staff investigate both options, but they were voted down.