The fight for a Tumut-Batlow rail trail has reached the steps of parliament, with chairman Phil Barton speaking at the official Make It Happen 2016 campaign launch.
The statewide campaign aims to shine a light on rail trails, hoping to get trails across NSW off the ground, launched and funded this year.
Mr Barton addressed over 65 mayors, councillors, rail trail advocates and members of state and federal parliament about the Tumut Batlow rail trail campaign.
His speech came as it was revealed the state government and local member Daryl Maguire would not support the trail unless it gained overwhelming landholder support.
However Mr Barton said the state government’s assertions were neither a surprise nor setback to the local group.
“Daryl Maguire is 100 per cent right, we agree and we are prepared to work towards it through discussion with landholders,” he said.
“We want to progress with farmer consultations; we want to talk to those who want to talk to us so we can gain a greater understanding of landholders’ needs and concerns.”
Mr Barton said the rail trail committee have always wanted to include landholders in their discussions but have been excluded by the shut the gate policy across Gilmore.
“We want to talk to landholders so we can continue our case study, it’s hard without their input because you can’t gain a full idea of their concerns,” Mr Barton said.
“We have always wanted to talk but the Gilmore Progress Association has put a blanket ban on talking to us. We need that lifted to have the discussions we need.”
Mr Barton also said Mr Maguire was correct that the committee has not yet isolated funding for the plan; with Mr Barton saying at this stage the committee’s priority is to get the plan and studies in place so when funds are found there is little work to be done.
“The main aim for now is to get to a point where we have produced a shovel ready project so when money becomes available, we’re straight to work,” he said.
In Parliament House’s Jubilee room Mr Barton spoke of the difficulties he and his supporters have faced advocating for the local rail trail; an experience common for proponents of rail trails but unique in its severity.
“The support was tremendous,” Mr Barton said.
“In Victoria there were the same concerns but parties were no where near as hostile as we’ve seen here. There’s nothing like it. The boss of Rail Trail NSW has been involved in 17 rail trails and he said he’s never seen anything like what he saw in Tumut at our launch, it shocked him.”
Mr Barton said the tone of the current discourse is disappointing but he still believes rail trail advocates and landholders can work together.
“It shouldn’t have gotten as nasty as it has, we’ve always tried to be respectful, and walk away from conflict,” Mr Barton said.
“In Victoria, the leaders in rail trails, farmers and rail trail advocates and users live in harmony with no problems. We wont have problems here either.”
Mr Barton was one of eight speakers at the invitation-only event alongside Albury state MP Greg Aplin.
“The event was very encouraging. We’ve got no doubt there’s a rigorous process to go through and we do all need to get together including as Daryl said, more landholder and community consultation,” Mr Barton said.
“It was a very good day with a number of high profile people. It was a good discussion of the future of rail trails is NSW.”