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Northern Rivers Rail Trail drops Byron Bay in new focus

Alia Parker's picture
Ben Reddin (CEO for Regional Dev. Aust.), Toni Zuschke (Tweed Chamber of Commerce), Barry Longland (Tweed Councillor), Geoff Meers (Secretary NRRT assoc.), and Vaughn McDonald (Richmond Valley Council) meet at Murwillumbah Station to discus the new plan. Source: NRRT Inc.

The campaign to develop a rail trail on the NSW north coast has taken on renewed hopes after the ambitious project missed out on securing state government funding earlier this year. However, under the revised plan – viewed as stage one of the project – development of the section of trail through Byron Bay and Casino will be put on ice.

Representatives of Northern Rivers Rail Trail Inc (NRRT Inc) said Thursday it had met with interested parties, including local government representatives, regional development, business, environment groups and the cycling community to discuss a way to secure funding and successfully move forward.

The Northern Rivers Rail Trail was among the favourites to secure funding set aside by the state government in 2015 to develop NSW's first rail trail. However, despite popular support, the region lost out to Tumbarumba, which put forward a strong and united proposal for a smaller 21km trail.

In hindsight, the NNRT project to develop a 132km rail trail from Casino to Murwillumbah via Byron Bay was overly ambitious. Not only did it require the cooperation of multiple councils, but the government received six separate applications for development of the route.

It appears NRRT Inc has taken the feedback from the failed process on board and recalibrated with a view to starting smaller and with a stronger focus on business and regional development. It will also begin by concentrating solely on the section of railway within the Tweed Shire council, and as such, will not include Byron Bay or Casino.

“We were encouraged that a revised proposal covering a smaller section of the corridor and involving only one local government area, will be treated more favourably,” NRRT Inc representative Geoff Meers said.

The revised plan will now seek funding to develop a rail trail for hikers, cyclists and other forms on non-motorised transport on the disused section of railway between Murwillumbah Railway Station and the Tweed Shire boundary at Crabbes Creek.

NRRT Inc said while it has narrowed its plans to work within the Tweed Shire, it's long-term vision was to still see the complete 132km rail trail from Murwillumbah to Casino become reality.

It said feedback received from the state government's evaluation process gave it a lot of confidence in the success of a smaller, more united campaign. This feedback also appears to be the driver behind the Tweed council better articulating the range of economic benefits a rail trail would bring to the region.

“While the feedback we’re receiving from the business community demonstrates considerable excitement and impetus, this campaign will have a strong emphasis on documenting this potential and examining ways to build it further,” said Cr Barry Longland.

“Closer participation by the business community, through the Murwillumbah and District Chamber of Commerce, and the involvement of Ben Reddin, the region’s new Regional Development Australia Chief Executive Officer, will be essential in strengthening our case.”

Toni Zuschke, Murwillumbah and District Chamber of Commerce President, said a rail trail in the Tweed Shire would help the region attract tourists visiting Byron Bay to its south.

“This fits in perfectly with the Green Cauldron’s recent selection by Tourism Australia as one of Australia’s iconic tourism destinations,” she said.

“The rail trail would be the ideal way for visitors and locals to explore this iconic location.”

Ben Reddin (CEO for Regional Dev. Aust.), Toni Zuschke (Tweed Chamber of Commerce), Barry Longland (Tweed Councillor), Geoff Meers (Secretary NRRT assoc.), and Vaughn McDonald (Richmond Valley Council) meet at Murwillumbah Station to discus the new plan. Source: NRRT Inc.

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