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Local NSW Greens MP Tamara Smith has publicly stated her support of rail trails and highlighted the cycle tourism potential in the electorate, creating a policy division with the Greens-led council over the disused railway line.
It’s a move that has been downplayed by Greens mayor Simon Richardson.
At the April 20 council meeting, a $200,000 Multi Use Rail Corridor study was voted upon by the Greens-led council. Council staff have been asked to prepare a tender and the cash will come from the Infrastructure Renewal Reserve.
Cr Paul Spooner, from Labor, and Nationals-aligned councillor Alan Hunter voted against the motion.
Yet Ms Smith spruiked rail trails in NSW parliament on May 10 and said she has accepted a promise from the transport minister that rail trails will stay in public hands.
Her speech was part of the debate around the Transport Administration Amendment (Closure of Railway Line between Rosewood and Tumbarumba) Bill 2017 which aims to turn that public railway into a rail trail. Tumbarumba is on the western edge of the Snowy Mountains.
She said, ‘The Greens believe that this trail is an exciting project but we want it in writing that it is not paving the way for the privatisation of public spaces.’
‘[If it stays in public hands] this rail trail will be a guiding light for cycle tourism in Australia.’
Six weeks ago Ms Smith said she had the ‘good fortune to visit the Queenstown Cycle Trail and the Otago Central Rail Trail in New Zealand.’
‘In the Central Otago area, farmers embraced the rail trail. They were not supportive of the trail in the beginning and it took some time for them to see the economic benefits.
‘A beef farmer and his family – I cannot remember his name – are now making more money from cycle tourism than they make from their beef. The model that the Otago Central Rail Trail Trust followed is one that I believe is very sound for Rosewood to Tumbarumba and for my region.
‘No matter how many times ministers say the train is never coming back, people are very concerned about public transport. They say that we do not know what disruptions will occur in the future.
‘I will not go to the next election – if I am pre-selected – with this ridiculous scenario where The Greens do not support cycle tourism.’
Multi-use rail planThe Echo asked the mayor now Ms Smith has come out in support of rail trails, ‘does this change your multi-use rail plans?’
He replied, ‘No. This is old news. It’s great to see state pollies begin to understand we are strong when we include all needs.
‘The purpose of the Byron Line and [the] current feasibility process now underway is to pursue an on-track shuttle service with a rail trail alongside, and uniting rail and trail user groups.’
‘It’s never been disputed that cycling tourism can be great, especially for areas that wish for more tourists, have little need for mass transport options for locals and are beset with a struggling agricultural and farming sector.
‘This was accurately outlined recently by Tamara.
‘Fortunately, Byron does not fit into any of these categories, so it is exciting that we are soon to undertake a feasibility study to map out how we can establish a mass transport shuttle serve to get our visitors out of their cars and disperse them around the Shire and to move our locals around, as we need and to enhance our already vibrant agriculture sector.
‘No longer pitting rail and trail groups – what an added benefit! This is the essence of the Byron Line; having a shuttle service alongside a rail trail – having our cake and eating it too – and uniting the community.
‘This could be the biggest economic, environmental and social game-changer in our history: jobs, mobility and emission reduction benefits and it’s appropriate that we in Byron flesh out the possibilities within this use of the corridor.’
This article first appeared on www.echo.net.au
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