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Byron Shire
February 2, 2023

A bone of contention

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Along with over 20,000 locals I would like answers from Tweed Shire Council, and the state government, to the following questions we have continuously raised for some years now.

As a landholder adjacent to the rail trail, and having spoken with all of the neighbouring property owners between Crabbes Creek and Dunbible, we are in full agreement that we were not reasonably consulted, and do not share Tweed Councils enthusiasm for the rail trail.

How has it been possible, when at times the rail corridor has been closed owing to tick quarantine, that the bike riders feel that closure does not include them? 

Biosecurity is a really serious issue because it can destroy a farmer’s livelihood. It can destroy him financially… but this is of no concern to those pressing for their world-class rail trail!

So how will an increase in theft be handled? How will privacy be kept for the trackside houses? How are the numerous creeks, now muddy waterholes, be restored to bring the platypus who recently lived there back? How will the glowworms be restored to the Stokers tunnel? What about the total lack of toilet facilities? Does Council expect the bike riders to creep under our fences to attend to a call from nature?

If rail trails bring in such huge financial returns, why do they expect we ratepayers to contribute $400k/year for maintenance? Why wouldn’t our Council listen to the people?

I could go on and on, but print space limits me!

Katriona Davis, Dunbible Creek

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  1. There is no evidence whatsoever to support the claim that 20,000 locals are seeking answers to any of the questions posed. I doubt that there are even 20,000 locals who would be fully aware of the trail project yet. That of course is about to change with the opening in a few weeks.

    Some landholders did have initial concerns as would be expected of the unknown. The council contacted every adjoining landholder and invited them to raise any problems. I have spoken to the contractor’s engineers on several occasions and they assured me that the vast majority of neighbouring landholders were onside once their concerns had been addressed.

    However, not having the rail trail at all was not one of the available solutions. Anyone who persisted with this position and did not avail themselves to reasonable negotiation only have themselves to blame if their real concerns have not been satisfied.

    I have never heard of a case where cattle ticks were spread by humans or bicycles. Do landholders quarantine themselves when their properties are quarantined due to a cattle tick infestation? Cattle ticks generally arrive on properties on imported cattle.

    There is no evidence of any increase in theft at any other rail trails. In any case, bicycles make very poor getaway vehicles.

    Privacy was one of the issues that landholders were specifically invited to raise. Tree planting and screening are the solutions. In some cases trail was deviated from the formation to accommodate the needs of adjacent landholders, some who have actually encroached their activities onto the rail corridor.

    The contractors followed best practice at all times to ensure that environmental effects were minimised. The metal bridges were fully enclosed during work to prevent environmental contamination while they were sandblasted and painted. This actually averted ongoing slow leaching of lead based paints that had been used on them previously.

    An environmental consultant was engaged for the work in the tunnel which was done at night so as to avoid disturbing the bats, using amber lighting to avoid disturbing the glow worms. Both bats and glow worms are still happily living in the tunnel.

    Toilets are already available at several locations. The situation will be monitored and feedback sought from trail users. More toilets will be added if there is any problem. The project is not going to waste money on addressing perceived problems without evidence.

    The engineers who did the initial design of the trail and correctly estimated the construction cost as confirmed by the tender process, also costed the annual maintenance at $200,000. A State Government grant has already covered this amount for the first three years of operation.

    Murwillumbah Cycles has already leased part of the Murwillumbah Station for nearly two years at commercial rates. More spaces will be available once the project has been completed. Several other funding schemes are being investigated with the aim of maintaining the trail entirely from its own operations.

    Even if the entire cost were to be met by ratepayers, it would be considerably less than one thousandth of the Tweed Shire Council budget. It would amount to four cents per week for each Tweed resident. To put this in perspective, ratepayers contribute $3 million per year on top of the entry fees collected for the swimming pools and $9 million per year for parks and gardens. I’ve paid rates for over forty years and never once used a pool.

    Why wouldn’t some people listen to the council? Generally because they were too busy listening to themselves complaining.

  2. Crikey don’t bring back the diesel trains or both the micro bats and glow worms will be totally killed off .
    The marijuana crops grown by a few along the trail would be totally pissed off now that daily passive survey by the throng of locals and tourists will see their illegal activities.
    Theft actually is lowered by many passing residents walking the trail , passive surveillance is the best deterrent for criminals.
    It was actually easier robbing houses while it was an unused rail corridor, I need to find a new income stream now !!!!

  3. Answers to your questions are available in the reports on the 2017 consultations by Department of Premier and Cabinet for the Tweed Section of the Northern Rivers Rail Trail and in the 2018 Biosecurity Risk Assessment for the for the Tweed Section of the Northern Rivers Rail Trail undertaken by North Coast Local Land Services (LCC) .
    North Coast LLS advises it: “identified 78 landholders adjoining the proposed Rail Trail corridor and contacted each landholder either in person or by telephone and either emailed or posted to them a copy of the draft Biosecurity Risk Assessment, along with a request for their comment or feedback” , however “A small number of landholders declined to engage with the North Coast LLS in relation to biosecurity matters, or elected to either not respond or comment on the draft biosecurity risk assessment.” The DPC Repoert similarly contacted landholders adjacent to the corridor and other stakeholders.
    While some of what you raise was raised in the DPC consultations, the majority of landholders were satisfied with the advice given. A useful overview done for the Goulburn Crookwell Rail Trail found only a handful of incidents among the other rail trails in Australia surveyed and it noted “Numerous studies have concluded rail trails do not generate crime. Research and anecdotal evidence suggests conversion of rail trails tends to reduce crime by cleaning up the landscape and attracting people who use the trail for legitimate reasons such as recreation and transport”(the passive surveillance that Geoff refers to) and “…The Rails to Trails Conservancy work in the USA includes dozens of testimonials from law enforcement officers in a number of jurisdictions confirming that the expected/perceived crimes simply do not occur.
    The biosecurity report found possible risks could be managed with simple measures such as signage requiring dogs to be on leashes, and it found the risk of ticks was reduced as “In some sections there is considerable vegetation on or adjacent to the rail land, which can be harbour for wild dogs. Vegetation management with the Trail development is likely to reduce this harbour. Generally, increased levels of human activity are a deterrent to wild dogs”.
    There was no estimate done of maintenance costs of $400,000 per year. TSC and NRRT are considering ways of capturing income from leases and events to offset the much lower cost of maintaining the rail trail.
    I too am not aware of any similar questioning by 20,000 locals. That figure is often given though as the number of people who signed several petitions to the Parliament requesting the re-instatement of trains. Although not stated in the petitions those presenting them to the public have frequently referred to building the rail trail beside he line, and there was such a petition by a smaller number of signatories presented to Tweed Council . The Government decided a decade ago not to reinstate a train, there has was no other rail plan put forward, and the Tweed part of the railway was closed. The Greens who presented the petition to the Parliament, who moved an unsuccessful amendment to retain the rails and voted against its closure, did not raise any of the issues that you mentioned, presumably for the obvious reason that a trial beside the rails would carry the same benefits and impacts on adjoin landholders. That you raise the 20,000 figure does I must say leave open to me that the concerns you claim some adjoining landholders have, concerns dealt comprehensively in the consultations, is at least in part their dissatisfaction with not getting the train reinstated or the tracks retained.


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