A NORTHERN Rivers Rail Trail (NRRT) business case has been released ahead of tonight’s (Tuesday 25 June) Richmond Valley Council meeting.
The business case, prepared by Bathurst-based consultancy BusinessSense, covers the 45km Casino-to-Eltham section of the 130kms Casino-to-Murwillumbah rail corridor. Richmond Valley and Lismore City councils each contributed $15,000 for the report.
Richmond Valley Council, as project sponsor, is requesting $33.3 million in funding for the project. This equates to:
· Casino to Lismore – 29.7kms $15,442,980
· Lismore to Eltham – 15.5kms $17,825,425
Lismore City and Richmond Valley councils have committed more $100,000 towards the project through the provision of in-kind technical expertise and project coordination support. This includes project management and supervisory roles, planning and permit preparation, project direction and community engagement.
The costs for the Casino-to-Eltham section are based on extensive research undertaken by Tweed Shire Council in the preparation of the Murwillumbah-to-Crabbes Creek section, with construction and ongoing maintenance inputs from suitably qualified engineers.
Richmond Valley Council Mayor Robert Mustow praised the people behind NRRT, saying they had lobbied tirelessly for several years to make the trail a reality.
He said the reality of a rail trail, a signature project in Council’s Community Strategic Plan – Richmond Valley Made 2030, was boosted by several positive outcomes over the past 18 months.
“Federal Member for Page Kevin Hogan’s pre-election commitment of $7.5 million towards the Casino-to-Bentley section of the trail was a great win for the Richmond Valley,” Cr Mustow said.
“This funding is additional to the previous Federal and NSW governments’ commitments totalling $13 million for the Murwillumbah-to-Crabbe’s Creek section of the trail in the Tweed Shire.”
Cr Mustow said the proposed rail trail provided a safe, environmentally-friendly option for both visitors and local people who participated in a range of activities.
He said the trail could also have a number of non-monetary benefits, such as improved community connectivity.
He said importantly, the report highlights that the land would remain a rail corridor, meaning it could be used for transport in the future if required.
Council’s General Manager Vaughan Macdonald said getting the Casino-to-Eltham section started would be helped by work already completed by NRRT, in conjunction with Tweed Shire Council.
He said Council would work closely with Tweed Shire Council throughout the project, as well as engage with other regions which have existing rail trails.
He said as part of Council’s community engagement process, discussions would be held with landholders adjacent to the rail corridor, as well as other stakeholders.
“Adjacent landholders are traditionally – and understandably – apprehensive about trails close to their properties,” Mr Macdonald said.
“It is important these concerns are addressed before any trail conversion takes place.”
Mr Macdonald said the business case also included an allocation of $490,000 to upgrade the old Casino railway station.
He said a trail such as that proposed for Casino-to-Eltham would provide a number of opportunities: “A trail will bring additional tourists to the area. A trail will create opportunities to build on existing businesses and industries of the area.
“Council will be encouraging enterprising residents to offer additional off-trail offerings to encourage visitors to stay a little longer.
“All of our towns and villages offer a range of outdoor recreation experiences, be it boating, canoeing, kayaking fishing, swimming, paddling, walking, photography – you name it we have it right here in the beautiful Richmond Valley.
“A nature-based attraction has the power to retain visitors for longer, spending money and generating business opportunities.”