LIKE a scene straight out of the ABC TV satire, Utopia, the NSW Minister for Regional Tourism arrived in Bangalow yesterday to announce the NSW Government would be making an announcement in the future on rail trail funding.
"This (rail trail) proposal is far more advanced than any other I have seen and I think it is a leading contender to see funding in the future," Minister John Barilaro said.
Minister Barilaro said the Government's infrastructure strategy, announced on Tuesday, had identified $300 million for regional areas and he encouraged the Northern Rivers local councils and communities to plan ahead.
"We want to see projects shovel ready. Start planning, and when the money becomes available, be ready to bid your share," he said.
NSW's updated State Infrastructure Strategy:
- $3.7 billion for regional roads and bridges
- $1 billion for water security projects
- $400 million for country rail
- $300 million to accelerate regional health projects
- $300 million for regional school renewals
- $300 million for regional tourism and environment projects.
The Minister, along with Member of Ballina Don Page and Nationals candidate for Ballina Kris Beavis, met with members of the Northern Rivers Rail Trail Association while in Bangalow to discuss the rail trail project.
Mr Page said the rail trail would bring jobs to the region and act to preserve the rail corridor for future use, however there were still technical and governance issues to be discussed before proceeding.
"The bottom line is everyone is very keen on this project. It won't be too far away before we make an announcement," he said.
There was no immediate prospect for the return of trains on the tracks, he said.
"Cost and patronage mean (trains are) not an option at this stage, but it could be an option 20 or 30 years down the track," he said.
"Let's be far sighted about it and keep the corridor in public ownership."
While the rail trail is yet to be funded, yesterday did see an announcement made on funding for two of the region's most popular tourism events - Sample Food Festival and the Mullumbimby Music Festival.
The festivals will receive $10,000 each under the Regional Flagship Events Program, Minister Barilaro said
The festivals are two of 37 to be awarded grants for the marketing and advertising of important regional events.
"Regional Flagship Events are a great way to entice visitors to our regions to get a taste of what Regional NSW has to offer," he said.
"Holidays or short breaks to Regional NSW can be enhanced by visiting one of these unique events."