State member Daryl Maguire has weighed in on the Batlow-Tumut rail trail debate; stating the government will only support rail trail proposals with the overwhelming support of affected landholders.
Mr Maguire said conceptually he supports rail trails, arguing they can produce real benefits for local communities, however, without landholder support he said the Tumut-Batlow rail trial would not be supported by state government.
“My view has always been with the right concept, location and geographical features rail trails can be beneficial,” Mr Maguire said.
“They can bring benefits of tourism and physical activity for locals but it has to be in agreement with landholders and all parties. Where it cuts through properties there has to be an agreement, or a compromise that can be agreed to.”
Mr Maguire, who has not previously weighed into the local debate, said he is not yet satisfied advocates for the Tumut-Batlow trail have a firm plan for funding or gaining landholder support.
“I don’t think the proponents have spelt out how it will be funded or dealt with the government requirement for landholder support. There’s a lot of work to be done,” he said.
“Landholders have rights as well but it’s important the conversation is kept up in a respectful manner.”
Mr Maguire said rail trail issues throughout the state are rife, with many proposals failing to fulfil requirements and asking too much of the government.
“It’s an issue that has come across my desk a number of times; the concept of rail trails is good and beneficial but you must have overwhelming community and landholder support,” he said.
“Proponents must also be able to explain funding. I’ve seen some other proposals where costs are very steep, you need a logical funding proposal by proponents.”
“I’ve seen some proposals and submissions where they’re all putting their hand out to government but it’s got to be believable and stand the best of scrutiny as well as having the overwhelming support of landholders, who in this case vehemently oppose the idea.”
The chairman of Rail Trails for NSW has previously indicated the state group was hoping money from the sale of poles and wires would help fund rail trail plans across NSW.
However Mr Maguire has indicated he personally has different funding priorities for the anticipated money.
“The real question is with what money? I have other priorities first on the agenda, focusing on infrastructure of hospitals and schools,” Mr Maguire said.
“There’s no point funding it if there’s no landholder support.”
Mr Maguire said the Tumut-Batlow rail trail could still go forward should a compromise be reached or an alternative proposal found.
“That might mean some proposed rail trails follow public land delving through farming land where landholders are happy for it to, and in other places following the road way,” he said.
“NSW farmers across a number of branches have written to me and requested an appointment to discuss their vehement opposition.”
“The best alternative could be creating the trail along the road; it’s a cheaper alternative and would be able to be achieved perhaps more quickly.”