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THE rail corridor at the centre of the stoush between Police and Infrastructure Minister Rene Hidding and independent MLC Ruth Forrest has failed to get funding.
Ms Forrest alleges Mr Hidding bullied her over the Strategic Infrastructure Corridors Bill legislation — to enable old rail corridors to be opened up for community uses — during a Commonwealth Parliamentary Association dinner on September 20.
The heavily amended Bill was passed by the Upper House this week.
The Mercury has since learned federal funding for the Burnie-Wynyard corridor, which would have paid for a coastal pathway from Cooee to the Cam River and onto Wynyard, has been rejected.
Independent MCL Ruth Forrest. Picture: RICHARD JUPE
“When I had that discussion with Rene he raised the Burnie-Wynyard rail corridor,” Ms Forrest said yesterday.
“He maintained in no uncertain terms that it’s very simple and I suggested it wasn’t.”
Ms Forrest said she was under the impression Mr Hidding wanted the legislation passed and any delay would jeopardise funding for that project.
Ms Forrest said Mr Hidding told her by making the SIC Bill “controversial”, she was putting millions of dollars of federal funds at risk.
But she said her opposition was based on the lack of consultation with Heritage Rail Tasmania and her belief the Bill had little or no valuation or cost benefit analysis attached.
Mr Farrell said it was “now a different piece of legislation”, which preserved rail corridors, whereas before they could go back to farmland.
Mr Hidding said it was a matter of public record that his conversation with Ms Forrest related to the corridor project.
“While the Government is disappointed that funding has been rejected for the Burnie-Wynyard corridor, we still believe it is an exciting opportunity and hope there will be further opportunities down the track now that the Bill has effectively passed both houses,” Mr Hidding said.
“The practical benefits of the Rail Trail Bill extend beyond the Burnie-Wynyard trail, most notably, the North East Rail Trail.”
Waratah-Wynyard Council general manager Michael Stretton said he was disappointed that the rail trail had missed out on almost $2 million, but the legislation was a positive for rail trails around the state. He said the delay in the legislation being passed had no impact on the council’s unsuccessful funding bid.
Ms Forrest said Premier Will Hodgman had offered to mediate a conciliation meeting between herself and Mr Hidding.
This article first appeared on www.themercury.com.au
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