Two Northern Rivers councils join forces for rail trail bid
LISMORE City Council and Richmond Valley Council have lodged an expression of interest with the NSW Government for funding to build a rail trail from Casino to Eltham.
Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional NSW John Barilaro last month launched the $300 million Regional Growth - Environment and Tourism Fund last month to help to increase tourist numbers, drive job creation and build on other NSW Government regional investment programs.
The opening round is worth $100 million.
Working with Northern Rivers Rail Trail Inc, the two councils have lodged a joint expression of interest to secure up to $23 million to build the rail trail.
Lismore City councillor Gianpiero Battista said he backed the plan.
"I think it's going to generate a lot of money and tourism interest in the area," he said.
"I see everyday the number of cyclists on the road every day of the week. Having a dedicated path is also for those not (necessarily) into cycling but people want something for their family.
"It's a beautiful area, it will really encourage families to pick up their bikes and be more active."
Northern Rivers Rail Trail public liaison officer Marie Lawton said the trail could give Casino a huge tourism boost.
"People could get the train up with their bikes and jump on the rail trail at Casino," she said.
"There's a plenty of entreprenuerial people who are looking for an opportunity to make this happen. You'd have to market all the businesses, restaurants, accomodation and cafes.
"They could jump on the trail there and easily ride to Lismore.
"Then of course Eltham, that's already got the pub."
If the EOI progresses, a comprehensive business case will need to be developed to make the project shovel ready.
Lismore City Council will hold a councillor briefing next Tuesday night at which NRRT will discuss the benefits of a rail trail to the region, and the practicalities of building a successful trail.
Ms Lawton said finding a beneficial public use for the Murwillumbah to Casino rail corridor was becoming increasingly urgent because of recent murmurings that the State Government is looking to ramp up its sell off of disused assets.
Tweed Shire Council have also lodged an application under the Federal Government's National Stronger Regions Fund for funding to construct a rail trail from Murwillumbah to Crabbes Creek.
The Tweed Shire initiative is also a contender to receive "leftover" NSW Government funding from a pilot rail trail fund announced in 2014.
Meanwhile, Byron Shire has just voted to spend $200,000 on a feasibility study for mayor Simon Richardson's vision for a "multi-modal" corridor, with public transport alongside a trail, where feasible.