Need to build coastal rail links

A NEW train line linking Ballina with the Casino-Murwillumbah branch line will have to be built to help the Northern Rivers cope with its booming population, Ballina MP Don Page has said.

Mr Page said he would like to see a new train line running from Byron Bay to Ballina, taking in Lennox Head along the way, and then from Ballina to Lismore, taking in the plateau communities of Alstonville and Wollongbar, to help the region cope with massive growth expected between now and 2036.

The idea has won the support of Federal Page MP Janelle Saffin, who said she wanted itincluded in the integrated transport plan being developed for the region.

She said regular, affordable public transport, already a sore point in the region, was going to become critical as the region’s population grew and aged over the next 26 years.

“Transport is such a critical issue and I see it as becoming more important with the increasing of our population and of our senior population,” Ms Saffin said.

Government figures predict the Northern Rivers’ population will grow by about 70,000 between now and 2036, mostly between Ballina and the Tweed. At the same time, the population is expected to age dramatically, with the number of people aged 65 and over set to nearly treble in some areas, while the number of children aged 14 or under declines slightly.

Mr Page said the three key challenges for the region as it moved towards 2036 were getting the infrastructure, both in facilities and services, it needed; protecting the region’s environmental integrity in the face of rising population pressures; and to start engaging in more sustainable practices at an individual level through things such as water conservation, recycling, and building and choosing to live in smaller, more sustainable houses.

Ms Saffin said there also needed to be more investment in public housing and an expansion of the Federal Government’s rental assistance program, under which private investors were helped to buy properties which they rented out at 20pc below market rates.

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