Millions of dollars promised for project dividing voters
THE Northern Rivers Rail Trail is fast becoming Page's big ticket item ahead of the federal election as both major parties promise to deliver stage two of the project, despite some community backlash.
Page MP Kevin Hogan yesterday promised to deliver $7.5 million for stage two of the Northern Rivers Rail Trail, which would see a cycling and walking trail built along 13km of the old railway line from Casino to Bentley.
While, Labor's candidate for Page Patrick Deegan announced on Wednesday a Labor government would deliver $17m to help progress the delivery of the Casino to Eltham part of the project.
But Mr Hogan has faced criticism from the Northern Rivers Railway Action Group (NRRAG) after he dodged meeting protesters opposed to the rail trail at the Casino railway station where he was set to make yesterday's announcement.
NRRAG spokeswoman Beth Shelly said she was "disappointed” with Mr Hogan's attitude towards those opposed to the rail trail project.
"We make the huge effort to come out and take the opportunity to be a voice for people in this area but he didn't want to face us,” Ms Shelly said.
"You want your representative to be a voice of your concerns and is willing to listen and care about what we need in this area and we didn't get that this morning.
"I just find it mind boggling that our candidates can even consider offering money to rip up the railway track.”
But Mr Hogan, who said the "change of time and place was recommended by the Richmond Valley Council due to logistical issues”, said stage two of the rail trail will offer a "great boost” to tourism.
"This is a misused wonderful piece of infrastructure,” he said.
"The studies that have been done show that this will bring an extra 20,000 to 30,000 tourists to our region every year.
"This development will be a big economic boom to our region.
"And given both sides have committed to it there certainly will be activity after the election.”
But Independent candidate for Page Fiona Leviny has hit back at Mr Hogan's announcement after she felt there was hardly any community consultation done about the project.
"The community has said we want our train back,” Ms Leviny said.
"Stop handing out money without asking the community.”
Meanwhile, Northern Rivers Rail Trail Vice President Cameron Arnold said the rail trail would significantly help improve the tourism industry within the region.
"We've been working on this project for over six years.
"This disused corridor was earmarked as something that can be a really fantastic product for tourism in this region.
"One of the key things we've been trying to do in this region is to disperse tourism from the coastal hotspots out to the hinterland and get this activated. This would definitely achieve that.
"We're taking a pincer attack, we're taking it from the Tweed and start at Casino before taking it to the middle towards Byron Shire.”
Richmond Valley Council Mayor Robert Mustow has also welcomed stage two, which had been included as a signature project in the council's Community Strategic Plan.
"It would mean a lot of incoming tourism dollars into our community and every country town can do with a lot of that,” he said.
Once completed, the entire rail trail will stretch 132km from Casino to Murwillumbah.