The state government’s plan to rebirth old railway lines as cycleways and walking tracks has been delayed after the Legislative Council adjourned a crucial debate on its supporting legislation.
Hobart independent MLC Rob Valentine moved for an adjournment for October, supported unanimously by fellow members, some who noted that community concerns were still filtering through to them by email on Wednesday.
He referred to the TFGA’s submission that consultation on the bill was too short for such a substantial change to the state’s railway network.
Apsley independent MLC Tania Rattray said North East landowners had claimed that there had not been adequate consultation from the government on the 70-kilometre North East Rail Trail, despite their land being adjoined to the project.
The legislation would allow the development of the trail in the Dorset Council area, to be assisted by $1.47 million in federal funding, and for a coastal trail between Burnie and Wynyard on the Wiltshire Line.
The state government has resolved to keep all non-operational rail corridors but will consider alternative uses for those sections where there is no foreseeable need for rail services and an identified community benefit.
Derwent Labor MLC Craig Farrell, who didn’t support the bill, said that decision had revolved around informal conversations and election-time promises, followed by a quick package through the lower house.
“There seems to be a great haste to make lines around the state unuseable.” Mr Farrell said.
Murchison independent MLC Ruth Forrest agreed, saying the Dorset project’s funding was contingent on the project being completed by 2019.
Independent MLCs Greg Hall, Robert Armstrong, and Liberal MLC Leonie Hiscutt talked about the economic development created from these trails in other states.
Mr Hall recalled a recreational trail proposal between Deloraine and Mole Creek 26 years ago that was rejected by the council due to public objection – now viewed by locals as a missed opportunity.
He said there were the same public fears of noise and privacy breaches that had persisted in this debate but acknowledged that the state’s regions desperately needed the economic stimulus, particularly the North.
“Let’s look at the big picture and what is the best interests for the region in the future.” Mr Hall said.