Casino Mayor Charlie Cox can't wait to start refurbishing Casino's CBD.
Casino Mayor Charlie Cox can't wait to start refurbishing Casino's CBD. The Northern Star

Clean sweep for Casino

RICHMOND Valley Mayor Charlie Cox cannot wait to sweep in new changes to Casino's CBD.

Cr Cox was ecstatic over the weekend after getting news of a $5 million funding boost from the Federal Government.

Federal member for Page Janelle Saffin announced on Friday that Casino would be given $3 million to build a multi-purpose community centre and $2 million to upgrade Barker and Walker streets.

"The concept of revitalising the CBD area was created to promote Casino's economic growth," Cr Cox said.

The upgrade will include the stretches of Barker, Walker, Centre and Canterbury streets that enclose the CBD.

Larger pedestrian spaces with al fresco dining areas and traffic-calming road features are planned for Barker and Walker streets.

Centre and Canterbury streets will handle the heaviest traffic flows, with nose-in parking areas.

"There will be landscaping along the streets and al fresco dining will be encouraged," said Cr Cox.

"Pedestrian crossings will be raised for easy use by people in wheelchairs. Traffic calmers will be created along Barker and Walker streets."

Cr Cox said Australian Bureau of Statistics census data had indicated Casino as a major growth centre within the Northern Rivers.

"Especially since recent discoveries of gas deposits in the Casino area, the Government's interest in farming cereal crops for ethanol production and the upgrade of the railway and railway sidings in Casino for the movement of goods to the port of Brisbane," he said.

Cr Cox said there were two railway sidings in Casino, one being the old siding used by the Northern Co-operative Meat Company and the other a one-and-a-half kilometre siding recently built by Railcorp.

"We will be looking to encourage industry on the Far North Coast to use this rail link as an internodal transport centre," said Cr Cox.

Work on the CBD upgrade is not expected to start until next year and will be a staged development.

"We cannot start the work on the CBD upgrade until all the flood damage repairs are completed," Cr Cox said.

"And we still have eight months to go until we get on top of that.

"We will use all of that $2 million straight away and will need more because the upgrade will be an ongoing development.

"We have already started on the northern end of Walker Street, renewing water mains, new footpaths and resurfacing the road."

Cr Cox said the multi-purpose community centre would provide a permanent home for the town's various community groups, government agencies and not-for-profit organisations, such as the Red Cross.

He said the centre would be built on the existing council library site in Graham Place.

"It will be a two-storey building with the library occupying the first floor," Cr Cox said.

"The centre will become an information one-stop-shop and a meeting place for the community."

Cr Cox said construction of the centre was expected to start next year, with the total cost of the building expected to be about $6 million.

Half will come from the Government hand-out, while the remaining $3 million to complete the centre will come from the council's real estate fund.

"The money comes from the sale of the former Casino council chambers and we will be making applications to the various government agencies that will be using the building to help support its construction financially," said Cr Cox.

"I think it's an exciting time for people in Casino and it will encourage other industry to come to Casino and we hope we can work with Ms Saffin to further strengthen the community."

The funding comes from the Federal Government's Better Regions Program.

Ms Saffin said she pushed to have Casino's CBD upgrade and the new community centre funded in the Federal Budget as Casino was a key country town in the Northern Rivers.

"These projects, which have been on the council's planning agenda for more than two years, will provide a much-needed boost to Casino - a town that already is undergoing strong growth in terms of population, housing and industry," she said.

Ms Saffin said she had been in close contact with Cr Cox and Richmond Valley Council general manager Brian Wilkinson, and she was keen to work with the council to progress both projects for Casino and its surrounding district as soon as possible.

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