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June 20, 2024

Govt asked to explain rail sell-off strategy

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The state government has ‘no strategic approach’ to the sale of rail corridor land in the Byron Shire, and may be selling pieces off without public awareness or scrutiny, Byron Council has heard.

The comments were made by Greens councillor, Duncan Dey, during debate around the sale of a piece of rail corridor land for residential development on 14 Kendall Street, Byron Bay.

The meeting heard that the pending sale of the 261 square metre parcel of land next to Belongil Beach will not impede any future plans to reopen the rail line in the Shire.

However, it highlighted the fact that the state government’s Transport Asset Holding Entity (TAHE) sees such pockets of land as ‘surplus to requirements’, and can sell them off to developers without scrutiny, thus contributing to the erosion of the rail corridor.

TAHE has not indicated who the piece of land is being sold to, and The Echo understands no attempt has been made by Council to find out.

The application, listed as a ‘boundary adjustment’, only came to the attention of councillors because it contains a small area of protected wetland.

‘I want us to have a councillor workshop at which TAHE outlines their strategy for selling parts of the rail corridor in the Shire,’ Cr Dey told the meeting.

‘It appears to me that they have no strategic approach. That’s what’s illustrated to me through this development application. The application was only on our agenda by accident – by virtue of the fact that 700m away, there’s a little piece of wetland in the rail corridor.

‘We don’t see all of the boundary adjustments, and other small sales of land, and I have great fear that bits of it are being sold off that we will never find out about.’

While the boundary adjustment application was passed unanimously by councillors, Cr Dey and Independent councillor, Peter Westheimer, are now working on a motion for the next meeting requesting clarification from Council.

This could include asking representatives from TAHE to attend a workshop, or informing the body of Council’s position regarding the sale of rail corridor land to private interests. The ongoing erosion of the railway corridor for private development has been an issue of ongoing concern for some locals.

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  1. Council should apply to NSW Government to become manager of the crown land in the rail corridor. This is community and and if there are any sales those funds should be returned to Byron Council for infrastructure. Not diverted to pay for cost blow outs in Stdney Metro!

  2. The proposed sale does not involve any part of the rail corridor. It is a small parcel of railway land adjacent to the corridor and the sale of such parcels is not unprecedented.

    Unfortunately the railway obsessed like Duncan Dey continue to misrepresent the facts because the truth does not align with their agenda.

    • How about you go with the facts instead of your propaganda diatribe against a Councillor. The boundary adjustment of selling the Railway parcel of land between the existing adjacent private property border and the rail track, does remove part of the rail corridor – the boundary adjustment changes the distance from the existing private property boundary to the nearest rail from 17m to 10m, while 15mtrs from rail track to the nearest fenceline is the general rule of distance seperation required to run a train, unless there is an existing historical private property fenceline closer. The facts are available if you actually want to know , rather than just pushing your own agenda – Australian Rail Track Corporation

      Perhaps you could look at working more cooperatively with both those that want to preserve the corridor for either Trains or a Trail, as the Byron Bay Bypass now has a 1.5 metre overpass of the rail line to meet the botom of Jonson st – ie both Rail or Trail is blocked from there to the Shire border leaving 100% of ALL rail land from Byron Bay to the Shire border as “surplus rail land” that they would love to sell off. There have been other parcels of Rail land sold off in Byron – where are the Trail “to save the rail corridor” advocates action on the reality. And NSW gov is planning to spend $B20 (yes thats Billion)for a new 10 km track in Sydney – where is our transport $ per head of our Shire residents?

      • This is only about the sale of land adjacent to and not part of the railway corridor. The forthcoming Northern Rivers Joint Organisation study on the feasibility of completing the rail trail will examine where it is feasible to build it and leave the rails in place, but the experience in Tweed suggests that it will be quite limited (which is what the original study on the rial trail advised).
        Byron Shire and other residents of the Northern Rivers have just received the benefit of over $4b (yes that’s billion) spent on completing the divided road from Sydney , on top of the billions spent over the years south of Coffs and with further billions coming to complete the Coffs and Raymond Terrace bypasses.

  3. It appears that one of the main reasons the rail corridor in Byron Shire has not been sold off more substantially, is the fact that the adjoining councils of Tweed, Lismore and Richmond Valley, have serious Rail Trail commitments.

    If so, we can all applaud their collective insights and fortitude.

    ie. Use it, or lose it..

  4. Proper community consultation of this valuable public rail infrastructure and its use, and repurposing has never been a high priority by government. Isn’t the rail trail a Trojan Horse for trimming down excess land to the working corridor and eventually this corridor itself?
    Why can’t proper community consultation and sensible planning take place around sale of this excess land and it be funnelled back into reinstating rail — commuter rail complimented by modest minibus connections? ‘We all do better — when we all do better’. Paul Wellstone. Connecting our communities by joining these transport dots is doing better?

    • There is zero evidence that reinstating railway services would be an effective public transport solution. The monumental cost of resurrecting the railway and the huge subsidies required to operate them would be an extravagant indulgence in a tiny proportion of the population and much better spent on improving bus services. Multiple independent consultants have repeatedly come to the same conclusion.

      It is high time that rail advocates abandoned the tired myth that the rail trail is trojan horse for anything. The facts have been so frequently explained that any claim to the contrary deserves to be called a lie rather than a misunderstanding, especially by someone like Stewart James who is already well across the debate.

      The legislation for rail trails provides the same protection against disposal of the corridor to private interests as it had when it was a railway. For the Tweed Valley and Richmond Valley sections of the trail, the ownership has been transferred to the local government with the condition that it cannot be disposed of to any but another public body, carrying the same condition to any subsequent owner.

      In the current legislation which will be used to facilitate the trail between Crabbes Creek and Bentley, the corridor remains owned by the state government and the trail is given a thirty year lease. Under either legislation the Minister for Transport can revert the corridor to any public transport use at any time with the stoke of a pen. No compensation is payable to any lease holder. These facts are explicit.

      An effective commuter railway needs to be frequent, fast, be used by large numbers of passengers and connect from close to where people live to close to where they need to travel. Trains on the old corridor could never meet any of these requirements.

      Nobody, public or private, is going to invest a fortune in repairing the infrastructure and put themselves in a position to endlessly squander a fortune providing rail services. The Byron Train has already indicated they won’t. The only future for the corridor is its conversion to a trail and that is what is going to happen, eventually, one way or another.

  5. Well, well, well … what did we say?

    Remove the Railway Protection Act and watch the corridor get sold off?

    “Oh poo poo” they all said, pointing their fingers at us like a bunch of train mad fanatics with 💩 for brains. We stood firm and even tried to explain it “there’s a 30m wide stretch of corridor that runs adjacent to Belongil Beach in Byron Bay, don’t you think someone has their future pinned on that sale”… “no no no” they said “you’ve got it all wrong, it’s about outdoor exercise, get on yer bike”.

    Well here we are, just a few short years since the official act of parliament closed the Northern Rivers Railway corridor for your precious bike track, the project you told us that would ensure the corridor remains in public hands forever 🙄, and the sell off is well underway.

    Shame shame shame 😡

    • There is no “Rail Protection Act” in NSW. There is a Transport Administration Act that prohibits the sale of railway corridor land An amendment was made which closed the railway between Casino and Bentley and between Wooyong and Murwillumbah to build the rail trail. The amendment does not allow the sale of the land to any entity other than a public body . The issue here is the sale of land adjacent to the rail corridor. A similar sale was made of nearby adjacent land behind the Wollumbin Motel several years before the legislation closing other parts of the railway was passed. The railway between Bentley to Wooyong – including all of the railway corridor in Byron Shire – has not been closed and the only rail service in the region runs past the parcel discussed in the article.
      Following further amendments to the Transport Administration Act last year any future rail trail in NSW will not require the closure of the railway, and its sale remains prohibited. The entire Northern Rivers railway corridor remains and will remain in public ownership.
      And what government if it wanted to sell off the land would be so stupid as to put in place legislation that explicitly prohibits its sale, in order to enable the use of the land by the thousand of members of the public we have seen in the Tweed? I must say that people continue to believe these conspiracies bewilders me.

    • Elizabeth Freeman, You are correct. Once 99A, which was the protective legislation (no, that is not the full name of course) was deleted and the ‘debate’ in parliament then was the promotion of rail trails. The connection from Casino to the coast was the transport that was needed for the train service as was stated by thousands of people and also the great number of people who travelled to Sydney Parliament House to protest at the stopping of our train service – one being Catherine Cusack who with the Country Labor lady from Ballina who organised the whole trip was a practical action telling the Sydney pollies, you are wrong, The crowd said do not stop our train service. The Rail trail group just kept chipping away for the whole track, no sharing of the rail corridor to meet everyones needs and wants and their agenda sad to say was revealed as time went on. Jillian Spring

  6. FFS – do some research instead of click bait news by Paul !!
    Did you know that sections of land within the rail corridor have been sold off in Byron Bay for over 30 years ?
    Many of the landowners along Shirley St bought railway land abutting the railway corridor that was surplus for running trains for as long as I remember (lived in Byron Bay since 1964 to 2019) .
    Khia in Cavanbah St was once a railway cottage but it and all the surrounding land got sold off to a developer in the 90s.
    Journalists should do research before writing newsworthy articles but I see that The Echo is just like all other newspapers using clickbait news for grabbing readers eyes .
    Very tiresome !

  7. People have always known that once the legislation was removed that ensured the corridor could not be sold off, nothing would stop the state government selling off the valuable rail corridor. No surprises there.

    No politician ever went to an election promising to destroy the line for a bike track-they would never have been elected. That’s why they’d never ask the community they want a bike track instead of the train services they were promised-they know very well what the community wants and needs. The state government-the one Catherine Cusack was part of- which repeatedly promised to get the trains running, should stop wasting taxpayers’ money and just get them running.

    They promise people one thing, treat them with contempt and rip up the line for a bike track, then wonder why there’s so much anger in the community.

    Instead of learning from Tweed Council’s mistake, Byron Shire council seem determined to ignore the community’s need for safe, sustainable public transport, and follow Tweed Council’s bad idea. Brilliant!

    • his article is about the sale of land adjacent to the rail corridor land covered by the Transport Administration Act . There has been no change to the Transport Administration Act that allows any part of the railway corridor between Casino and Murwillumbah to be other than in public ownership.. The amendment passed last year allows any future rail trail to be built without closing the railway and again the land remains publicly owned, it cannot be sold, and the Minister for Transport can terminate any lease arrangement if the land is needed for another transport purpose.
      I am surprised living nearby that you would dismiss our wonderful Tweed rail trail – a smooth level wide mixed use path used by thousands of cyclists, walkers, kids in strollers or on scooters, their pets – as a “bike track”. Equally surprising is that anyone would suggest such a popular public amenity was a “mistake”. In an era where there are EV buses running on 100% renewable energy are there still have people who imagine rural rail is more sustainable? And do we still have people ignoring the Australian Bureau of Transport Safety data that tells us buses are act safer than trains , ignorng the care and hard work our bus operators put into getting our school kids and other passengers safely to their destinations?

    • Louise please do research before posting untruths on subjects you don’t know . I lived in Byron Bay from 1964 to 2019 and watched as railway land was sold off since the mid 1980s. The now car parking areas west of Jonson st (between Jonson and the railway line ) had active rail lines and operations until the mid 80s and it all got ripped up in the late 80s after Byron Council bought the land for parking .

      Most of the properties abutting the rail corridor along Shirley St either bought or leased from the railways land at the back sections of their properties surplus of railways requirements. The railways sold off a huge swathe of land between Cavanbah St and the railway line back in the 90s to a local developer which is now Khia. The nearby residents kicked up a stink as they lost the illegal crossing to the beach (it is illegal to cross or access railway land except at designated crossings) . Another piece of railway land that was surplus was behind the Mitre 10 at the south end of Jonson St but it had two adjoining owners who both wanted too buy it so it wasn’t sold off until a few years ago .
      Another piece of railway land sold off many years in the 70s was at the Shirley St level crossing south side that has a motel built on it .
      The First Sun Caravan Park has leased a large section of railway land forever (Byron Council may have bought ?) .
      So Louise railway land has been sold off for more than 40 years in Byron Bay .
      FYI- your use of terminology ‘bike track’ for the rail trail shows your ignorance on who uses the trail . I would suggest that you do some ground truthing by actually visiting the rail trail and see that lots of local residents and visitors walk , run or merely congregate on the rail trail.
      Your blinkered writings are wearing thin and I suggest you would be better spending your energy on pushing for the new modern alignment railway system as stated at all local , state and federal levels that will follow the M1 between Chinderah and Yelgun .
      Nostalgic slow meandering trains on the 1890 steam age alignment will not get workers and commuters out of cars , nor will it get freight off our highways .


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