Delivering the Northern Rivers Rail Trail is a priority for Richmond Valley Council.
Delivering the Northern Rivers Rail Trail is a priority for Richmond Valley Council. Scott Powick

Why rail trail is more important then ever to council boss

MAKING the Northern Rivers Rail Trail (NRRT) a reality is well and truly on the agenda for Richmond Valley Council, with the general manager drawing inspiration from a recent family holiday to New Zealand.

On speaking with business owners in Lauder, along the Otaga Rail Trail, Mr Macdonald said he discovered the small village had "come back to life" due to the project.

"There was not much left to now been revitalised with a service station, cafe, hotel and a bike hire shop which now has 18 employees after starting the business as a couple," he said.

"The New Zealand experience certainly highlights the tourism and economic benefits that can be realised from rail trails on unused rail corridors.

"Given the geography along the Casino to Murwillumbah rail corridor, the Northern Rivers Rail Trail would provide similar spectacular scenery and provide a tourism experience to draw the large visitation along the coast inland."

On the progress so far, Mr Macdonald he said the reality of the Northern Rivers Rail Trail, a signature project in Council's Richmond Valley Made 2030 Community Strategic Plan, had been boosted by several positive outcomes in the last year.

The NSW State Government committed $13 million of funding for the Murwillumbah to Crabbes Creek section of the trail in February this year.

"Currently the Tweed Shire Council is going through the necessary regulatory processes for their section of the trail," Mr Macdonald said.

"For the Richmond Valley section of the rail trail, Northern Rivers Rail Trail Inc has engaged the well-regarded company Business Sense to complete a business case for the Casino to Eltham section of the rail trail.

"With further government support and funding to add to the funds announced for the Tweed section, the Northern Rivers Rail Trail will become a reality."

Both Richmond Valley and Lismore City Councils have both contributed $15,000 to support the business case, which is expected to be completed for mid December 2018.

Mr Macdonald said the business case would "explore the economic and community benefits of the rail trail" and used as a base for future grant funding applications.

He noted important milestones that have been completed under the guidance of NRRT were base mapping GIS from Casino to Eltham which was funding from the NRRT crowd funding campaign funds, and the assessment of all bridges from Casino to Burringbar.

"NRRT members have also been busy meeting politicians from a variety of parties. They recently met with Labor candidate for State seat of Lismore Janelle Saffin and Shadow Minister for Environment, Heritage, Tourism and Trade Penny Sharpe with Labor indicating they support the rail trail.

"NRRT representatives also recently met with members of the High-Country Rail Trail in Victoria to discuss how to best repair trestle bridges."

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