NSW Labor has committed $50,000 to the Molonglo Rail Trail despite a lack of support from Queanbeyan Palerang Regional Council. The NSW Opposition said it would fund a detailed Development Plan as a critical next step in progressing the Molonglo Rail Trail proposal.
The proposed Trail passes through the Molonglo Valley showing off the region’s wonderful landscapes. The trail passes through Bungendore, Captains Flat and Hoskinstown, and incorporates old railway infrastructure such as embankments, cuttings, bridges, culverts, stations and the turntable at Captains Flat.
Mick Veitch MLC, Shadow Minister for Lands, said: “I have been backing rail trails since coming to Parliament – and last year we amended the Government’s Bill to ensure rail lines, if closed for rail trail purposes, would go back to Crown Land for future management.”
“Labor will work with the community in making sure this rail trail has the chance to succeed,” said Mr Veitch. “Rail trails through beautiful landscapes like the Monaro and Molonglo would be a boost to the local economies and support local jobs in smaller townships.”
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Bryce Wilson, Country Labor candidate for Monaro, said: “This is the sort of local project I want to get behind, they will become a critical part of our tourism industry. The fact that the community have already raised $36,000 shows there’s a passion and a will to get this project off the ground.”
“If elected, I will make it a priority to work to get the two rail trail proposals in the electorate moving,” said Mr Wilson.
The support from the Opposition comes despite a motion by QPRC in November 2017 not to support the Molonglo Rail Trail feasibility study. The decision not to support the rail trail was made despite the strong support for cycling in the QPRC Tourism Plan & Policy 2017-2025, which was adopted in 2017 when the council was still under Administration.
The QPRC Tourism Plan & Policy noted: “In summary, the key outtakes from the consumer research and analysis of tourism trends include: – Short breaks represent the greatest short to medium term opportunity; – Bike tourism is higher yield and a growing market segment, especially for short breaks and events…”
The Plan included key recommendations, including “Establishing the region as an ultimate cycling destination, involving a network of cycling touring routes, rail trail experiences, bike parks and technical tracks and linking it all to the hospitality and heritage offer of the region.”
The Plan also noted that “The ACT Government has committed to the development of a Cycle Tourism Strategy, which would be enhanced by the bike tourism experiences in and cycling linkages to the Queanbeyan-Palerang region.”
The Plan went further by noting that the creation of “the ultimate cycling destination” was a “game changer.”
In April, QPRC decided to review the Tourism Policy and Plan.
As evidence of the support, the cycling and tourism community had already raised $36,000 for the Molonglo Rail Trail proposal.
Mr Wilson said, “I think the backflip by QPRC was disappointing. All that the Rail Trail proponents are looking to do is to get all the information from stakeholders’ thoughts, economic benefits, challenges and potential capital costs on the table. Once that is done a government can make the decisions, and local government should support this process. I note there was a rescind motion against the original backflip decision, I supported that attempt, but it failed in the end.”
“Tourism, particularly those areas that leverage the capital region’s recreational culture, should be part of our Tourism Plan,” said Mr Wilson. “We need to leverage the resources and opportunities we have in the area, and a very strong biking culture and a historic rail line may well be a great example, but let’s get the full package developed up. I also note a recently released Snowy Monaro plan mentions looking to make that area a cycling capital” said Mr Wilson.
The State Government has funded $27 million into cycling and walking trails in the Snowy Mountains in recent years.
Commenting on a proposal by the Cooma and Monaro Progress Association to establish a Canberra to Eden railway, Mr Wilson said: “I very much welcome the conversation on any large scale regional development project.”
“What has been released is an engineers’ proposal on the mechanics, routes and rolling stock of the track. I have read the report and found it very informative,” Mr Wilson said. “I understand that the next steps that the progress association wants to take are a detailed engineering study and a robust cost-estimates. I understand the progress association is seeking funding to get this work done, I would encourage the Mayor of SMRC to support them in this endeavour.”
Late last year, Labor committed $75,000 to the Monaro Rail Trail.
Mr Wilson said the funding for the Molonglo Rail Trail would be issued within the first 100 days of Labor forming Government in NSW.