Fears of rail corridor sell-off

THE NSW Government has been accused of making a ‘backdoor’ grab for the region’s rail corridor after last year’s failed bid to sell off the State’s unused rail tracks.

Lismore Councillor Simon Clough raised the alarm yesterday, saying new planning rules were a significant step towards selling rail corridors.

“Under the new local environment plans that are being developed right now the State’s rail corridors are to be zoned the same as adjoining land,” he said.

“This change will mean the rail corridors in urban areas such as Lismore, and more importantly areas where land is very valuable, such as Bangalow and Byron Bay, will be zoned commercial.”

Cr Clough said while the changes to the zones did not mean the corridors could be immediately sold, they would accelerate the process should the Government go ahead with its threat to reintroduce the Transport Administration (Rail Trails) Bill it withdrew last November amid community outrage.

The Government was forced to withdraw the bill that would have removed century-old laws and cleared the way to sell off corridors to private developers by releasing the land for bicycle tracks.

Karin Kolbe, president of local rail lobby group TOOT, said the changes were ‘a cause for concern’.

“It is not a good thing that they are trying to hide zoning changes under LEPs, but because of the fight we had last year it requires an act of Parliament to sell off rail corridors,” she said. “However, that is not the case with land adjoining a rail corridor, so it is something we will be seeking more information on.”

Byron Shire mayor Jan Barham confirmed yesterday the council had been told by the Government to rezone land adjacent to the Byron rail corridor to commercial.

“However, council is determined to keep the 5(a) special use zoning to allow for a reinstatement of the railway service to the shire and a second railway crossing for any proposed Byron bypass,” she said.

“Once zoned for commercial use the council would lose significant planning flexibility.”

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