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Wednesday's Ordinary Monthly Meeting of Armidale Regional Council was held in Guyra and well attended by local ratepayers who seemed interested by the issue of a 103 kilometre Rail Trail proposal between Armidale and Glen Innes.
Prior to debate on the matter, Mayor Simon Murray asked for comments from council CEO Susan Law, who wished to clarify the recommendation as set down because she thought there may have been some confusion about it.
"The recommendation is to seek the council's support and endorsement of the concept of a rail trail," Mrs Law said.
"The report that has been put before you is conceptual in nature.
"A full business case will need to be undertaken, both on investment and the return on investment, both from a financial sense and an economic model sense. Before that happens, we would have to have a commitment of funding for those two items from the State Government or some other body."
Cr Peter Bailey proposed the recommendation and Cr Diane Grey proposed amendments that were adopted towards the end of debate.
"It is obvious this is an extremely emotive issue and it is wonderful that we have a community that cares," Cr Grey said.
She considered compromise was needed and, in her opinion, it would eventuate when council reached the stage of having a business case for the project.
Cr Margaret O'Connor's amendment to the proposal would have seen the Rail Trail Study placed on public exhibition for public submissions.
Cr Debra O'Brien spoke for Cr O’Connor’s amendment, saying she had heard many wonderful suggestions for the use of the rail over a number of years.
"It doesn't have to be Rail Trail or Train, it can be a mixture of things. I think by not allowing people to make submissions we would miss out on some incredible suggestions and ideas," she said.
Cr Grey said public submissions could possibly help with a future business case.
Councillors voted five-all on Cr O'Connor's amendment and it was lost on the mayor's deciding vote.
In his right of reply, Cr Bailey said he didn't think it would ever be possible to reopen the railway line north for some kind of tourist train because of the large amounts of money involved.
"The Rail Trail issue has soldiered on for a long time. I think we are all aware of the opinion of both sides of the argument," he said.
"This is a "now" project. This is a retail measure we can move forward with to revitalise Guyra. We can hopefully get some more cafes, some more B&B's happening here.
"And that's the sort of initiative I think we need to follow, not sit on the fence for another 12-months. We've got to begin to move forward and make some decisions."
Cr Bradley Widders abstained from voting on the issue.
The final resolution adopted by council read:
a) That Council acknowledges the completion of the Rail Trail Study;
b) That Armidale Regional Council endorse the development of the Rail Trail Project subject to external funding and that Armidale Regional Council does not commit any further funds to a Rail Trail project at this stage.
c) That when appropriate external funding is available, ARC will commission a business case that details financial and economic modelling for the Rail Trail project.
d) That the State Government be advised of Council’s endorsement of the Rail Trail Project and be provided with a copy of the Study;
e) That Council seeks Government grant funding for its implementation;
f) That Armidale Regional Council commence discussions with Glen Innes Severn Council to:
This article first appeared on www.armidaleexpress.com.au
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