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Rail trail on MP’s bucket list

RIDING HIGH: The Northern Rivers Rail Trail supporter Tony Keogh is very keen to see the initiative gain support and become a major part of the Northern Rivers region.
RIDING HIGH: The Northern Rivers Rail Trail supporter Tony Keogh is very keen to see the initiative gain support and become a major part of the Northern Rivers region. Marc Stapelberg

BALLINA MP Don Page said he is aiming to have funding and legislation for a Murwillumbah to Casino rail trail locked in by the end of November - his last Parliamentary session before retirement.

While there are still a few important hurdles, Mr Page said the Northern Rivers Rail Trail project would be the "first cab off the rank" ahead of several rail trail projects in the pipeline for the state.

"I'd be hoping that we'd have a fairly firm proposal in front of government within a month or so," Mr Page said.

"It's not that complicated, but it does have to be right."

The proposal would allow funding to be locked in from the Regional Tourism Fund under Restart NSW, and legislation would then be passed to green light the project.

"I'd personally like to see it done by the end of November. That's my objective," Mr Page said.

Mr Page said the state government is currently conducting a more rigorous cost-benefit study of the trail, while locally the search for a suitable proponent for the project is underway.Northern Rivers Rail Trail secretary Steve Martin said it was an "absolutely critical stage" to find the right proponent organisation, ideally with a track record in managing funding and rolling out a valuable community infrastructure project.

"To keep the asset in public ownership is key to our thinking," Mr Martin said.

"I think what we've got the potential for here is a hallmark attraction for Australia."

"The upshot of that is it's got huge community benefit as well - it's an amazing asset."

"We just need to find the right structure and there's a huge appetite to make that happen from within government."

Mr Page said a suitable proponent could involve the formation of a trust, which would have representation from state and local government, and community representatives.

He said his aim was to ensure to project was fully funded before any work commenced.

Most funding is expected to come from the Regional Tourism Fund under Restart NSW although there are also hopes for some level of federal funding.

"I'm a very keen advocate for the rail trail, I think it will bring tremendous benefits to the region."



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