Rail trail cops funding setback
A PROJECT touted as a "game changer" for the region's vital tourism industry has failed to secure funding from the Federal Goverment - for now at least.
Tweed Shire Council's rail trail, a planned 26km trail from Murwillumbah to Crabbes Creek, was not successful in its bid for $6.3 million sought under Round One of the Federal Government's Building Better Regions Fund.
The money was intended to match an additional $6.3 million already promised to the project by the NSW Government last month, as well as $600,000 from the council's own coffers.
Anticipation was high the trail would get the nod, but when Regional Development Minister Fiona Nash announced the list of successful projects last Friday, the rail trail was not on it.
Tweed Shire Council's director of engineering, David Oxenham, said result was "disappointing" but the council would remain committed to the project.
"It has been a wonderful community effort to get the project this far," Mr Oxenham said.
"The State Government's recent announcement it had set aside $6.3 million for the project, and the community turn-out to celebrate that announcement was a great indication of the level of support for this venture.
"It would be a real lost opportunity if we were unable to convert the disused rail corridor into a major asset for this area, so we will continue to look for funding opportunities."
Northern Rivers Rail Trail member Geoff Meers said the momentum was still strong for the project.
"We're going to be looking at what other options we've got," Mr Meers said.
"But we aren't giving up at all, we're continuing to actively lobby both State and federal Government, and we're confident that eventually we will get the funding we need.
"But we are very keen to get the Tweed section started as soon as we can.
"Potentially we could ask the (State Government) can we use it to build half the trail, to get it to Stokers Siding for example.
"The best case is we find another source of funding in the short to medium term and the project goes ahead quite quickly."
The Tweed section of the rail trail is seen as the first stage of a longer, 130km trail running along the disused Casino to Murwillumbah rail corridor which would put many of the region's pretty villages and stunning scenery on display.
In Parliament yesterday, Richmond Labor MP Justine Elliott called on the Turnbull government to fund the trail.
"Despite this recent rejection by the Turnbull government, the Northern Rivers Rail Trail has widespread support within our community," she said.
"It's recognised that the rail trail will bring great opportunities in tourism and will be beneficial to our local economies.
"I only hope that in future rounds the council will be successful in its application and will get on and get support for this fantastic local project."