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Byron Shire
October 1, 2023

Towards the future

Latest News

Feros responds to Expression of Interest announcement

The announcement earlier today that the Minister for Crown Lands, Steve Kamper, started the Expressions of Interest (EOI) process for Feros Village Byron Bay has drawn a response from the Feros Care board that still sees the facility in terms of a 'closure'. 

Other News

School holidays: farmers’ market fun

It’s an image still with me, the little boy dancing in front of the stage, face split into a smile of pure joy, orange balloon floating from his fingers, his father bopping alongside.

Cruel Sea return gig supports Wildlife Hospital, October 21

For their first gig in ten years, The Cruel Sea will headline a fundraising event for Wild Aid 2023, in association with Byron Bay Wildlife Hospital and Bluesfest.

Feros responds to Expression of Interest announcement

The announcement earlier today that the Minister for Crown Lands, Steve Kamper, started the Expressions of Interest (EOI) process for Feros Village Byron Bay has drawn a response from the Feros Care board that still sees the facility in terms of a 'closure'. 

Disaster management needs different approach, says NRCF

Disaster funding must favour social capital and community building, rather than just ‘mopping up’, the head of the philanthropic organisation, Northern Rivers Community Foundation, says.

What is the future for Lismore Regional Gallery and Museum? Have your say

The Lismore Regional Gallery and the Lismore Museum (Richmond River Historical Society) want to hear from you. If you...

Byron homeless hub forced to cut vital services

Byron’s only homeless hub says it has to reduce services owing to an increase in demand and a lack of government funding.

On 24 August Byron Council will be discussing the rail trail. Will they look to the future or wallow in the past?

In 2004 the Casino to Murwillumbah railway was closed. Several studies showed that the route was no longer relevant to the modern demographic spread and that maintaining a railway designed and built in 1898 was exorbitant.

Today, state and federal governments have begun to invest in this community asset, spending nearly $20 million to open both ends of a disused railway to walkers and cyclists. The community has responded and taken to this trail way beyond expectations.

A projection of 27,000 visitors in the first year was smashed in the first four months, exceeding 70,000 (potentially 210,000 in 12 months!).

As a result, the state government has committed $480,000 to an engineering and business study from Lismore to Crabbes Creek, obviously they are intending to complete this magnificent project from Casino through Byron to Murwillumbah. 

A private endeavour has opened a three-kilometre stretch from Elements of Byron to town for their diesel/electric train, but when asked whether they would extend this to Mullumbimby stated ‘not without external funding’. 

In nearly 20 years, after numerous studies, no government, corporation nor individual has offered funding to return the train.

The trail for pedestrians and cyclists is much cheaper to build as there are places where bridges have been bypassed and the surface is a basic road base. Maintenance will be covered by selling licences to businesses and long-term leases such as electricity easements.

Trains will require all bridges to be repaired to carry the tonnage involved, even ‘light’ rail! ‘Light trains’, actually refers to passenger use and the limited number of carriages, they still weigh 34 tonnes. They are used in urban areas amongst cars and pedestrians because they don’t travel quickly, passengers are light, and they can be stopped very quickly. All stations would need to be rebuilt; track ballasted; new sleepers, possibly rails, and rolling stock purchased; plus costs incurred for ongoing employment of railway staff and track maintenance crews.

Most train trips are multimodal, that is you need to get to a station, catch the train and then, often, other transport to your final destination. For example, a person living at Ocean Shores, going to Lismore Base Hospital, would need a bus or taxi to Mullumbimby and likewise from the Lismore station to hospital. 

Most elderly, people requiring medical services or social outings, and even youth, can usually get a door-to-door service, return, through the Community Transport Company! 

Community transport and buses have a service flexibility and area coverage that fixed railway lines cannot compare to.

The Bangalow community has been trying for years to get a safe pathway from Rifle Range Road to town and the local primary school, utilising the existing railway track, and yet they are ignored by this, and previous councils.

Businesses associated with the Murwillumbah to Crabbes Creek rail trail are cashing in on this boom. 

Tweed Shire Council recently had 150 businesses express interest in connecting to the pathway.

Destination North Coast held their symposium and awards in the Tweed recently. At both events the Tweed Rail Trail was the ‘hero’ for the region. The Tweed Tourism group titled their presentation ‘Rail Trail to Recovery’ to indicate that it is a saviour for the industry.

Tweed Mayor Chris Cherry also spoke at both events and has now become a devotee of the Northern Rivers Rail Trail. She admits to not supporting it prior to it being built, and laments this, now wanting to work to get the rest of the trail built. It was a ‘lesson learned’ for her to not necessarily listen to the loudest voices.

The tourists are a total cross section of our community, including families, retirees and elderly getting out and about, through organisations like ‘Cycling Without Age’. Some local schools now include cycling on the trail in their sports programs.

The 132km pathway could be progressively built and completed within five years; a train? Councillors – choose reality over the dream!

Richard White, East Ballina

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    Several studies DID NOT show the line was no longer relevant. Quite the opposite. The ONLY study that stated that it would cost over $900m to return the XPT train (after the LNP had promised for years a 16-trains -day commuter service on the line) has since been completely discredited. The LNP stated over many years that a sixteen trains-a -day service and the rail connection to the Queensland rail system would be an “enormous social, environmental and cost benefit”. They promised $100m funding for this service. THIS HAS ALL BEEN DOCUMENTED.

    When the ALP closed the train service they claimed it would cost $88m over ten years to catch up on maintenance on the line. Destroying the train line for a bike track is costing taxpayers $600,000 per kilometre, or $79m for 132ks. Of course there won’t be any massive cost blow-out a la rebuilding of the Sydney tram lines and the Metro.

    The thousands of people who attended rallies and signed petitions for trains are not happy that they have been betrayed big-time by dodgy politicians who continually promise so much to win elections then do NOTHING but waste taxpayers’ money on rorts and barrels of pork !!! Too bad about people who lost evrything in the floods-no money for them to rebuild or relocate!! Charming.

    People are also not happy about having their once quiet tiny towns, where it used to be safe for children to ride their bicycles, now filled with dangerous, monster gas guzzlers. When they’re actually asked they state they want trains on the line again.

    The so-called economic benefits from the rail trail have also turned out to be pure fiction.

    This kind of dishonesty and political skulduggery is why the major parties only get around 30% of votes as so many people are voting for decent Independents.

    • Louise is presenting the unqualified opinions of long retired politicians against only comprehensive, independent, professional study ever done of the line. That study has never been discredited by any credible critique. Rail advocates just didn’t like the finding.

      The ancient $88 million figure Louise quotes to bring the line up to a sufficient standard to continue operation was refuted by the rail authority and never had any credibility. The infrastructure has deteriorated into far worse condition in the ensuing decade.

      There have been three state elections since the National Party candidates in the region backed away from their suggestions about reviving the railway in response to the report that condemned it. Any candidates who have stood in support of the railway at those elections have been completely humiliated.

      Occasional pro-rail protests attract the same ten core rail advocates if they are lucky. The truth is the vast majority of people are loving the trail and couldn’t care less about the useless defunct railway.

  2. The usage of the rail trail is being recorded by counters and was estimated to be about 70,000 in four months. Surveys of users show the majority spend money in local businesses. The benifits are not a fiction. The Northern Rivers Joint Organisation (NRJO) , with a grant of over $400,000, is examining the business case to complete the rail trail in Lismore and Byron LGAs ,with a link to Ballina. To do that it will draw on the data we have of usage and spending on the NRRT, and the data from other comparable longer trails like the Murray to Mountains and the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail. These are credible methodologies to assess the potential of the complete Northern Rivers Rail Trail.
    The Burchills report on the Booyong to Bangalow and the Mullumbimby to Wooyong sections of the corridor has made it absolutely clear that on those sections it is not viable to build the rail trail beside the rails. Can I remind you that report was not done by or for Northern Rivers Rail Trail, but by Byron Shire Council, which has been pursuing multi use of the corridor. It is independent advice. The NRJO report next month will advise on where the path could be built beside the rails between Bangalow and Byron Bay and Mullumbimby.
    While the rail trail has been in planning for ten years and is about to present a detailed thorough business case, the Burchills report was unable to identify any proposed rail use for that part if the corridor with funding or a business case. At least for those two sections there is no reason not to accept the staff recommendation and proceed with the rail trail. With the benifit of the NRJO study on the viability of trail beside rail , and the degradation study that rail groups are doing, Byron Shire will have more information on which to come to decisions on the rest of the line. I must say I am not optimistic, but it would be great if that could include some sort of multi use beyond the Elements train.


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Another wallaby death on beach prompts calls on dog owners 

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A win for Feros Village Byron Bay residents

A whole community can expel a sigh of relief at the breaking news that months of distress and sadness can now become part of history – this morning the Minister for Crown Lands, Steve Kamper, has announced that services providers for aged care are advised that Expressions of Interest (EOI) are now open for Feros Village Byron Bay.

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