July 25, 2014
Despite a few false starts, South Burnett mayor Wayne Kratzmann was always confident funding would come from somewhere to make the South Burnett Rail Trail a reality … but when the $2 million figure was revealed on Friday, he was stunned.
Looking equally pleased was Gympie Regional Council Deputy Mayor Tony Perrett.
The $2 million from the State Government will be used to develop a rail trail between Kingaroy and Kilkivan, although the finer details of how the money will be distributed between the two councils is yet to be worked out.
It dwarfs the $550,000 which had been promised by the Federal Government in the dying days of the Labor Government but which never eventuated.
Deputy Premier and Member for Callide Jeff Seeney, who travelled to Murgon to make the announcement, said the $2 million would be distributed from the Royalties For The Regions program.
He said the money would fulfil an obligation that had “gone unfulfilled since the railway was closed”.
“As the local Member back then, I negotiated with the then (Labor) Minister for Transport John Mickel about closing the railway,” Mr Seeney said.
“Closing the railway was a sensitive issue. It was something that we didn’t want to do. None of us wanted to do it. None of the councils … wanted it closed.
“At the end of the day we negotiated for $20 million to be spent on the Wide Bay Highway and we negotiated for … an amount of money to be spent on a rail trail, a bit over a million dollars, depending on who you believe because there were different stories around.
“But that money has never been paid and the agreement that had been signed had expired.”
Mr Seeney said the rail trail project would complement the South Burnett’s already vibrant tourism industry.
He said former rail corridors had a become a magnet elsewhere for hikers, cyclists and horse riders.
“I think we can develop the rail trail as an add-on to the tourism industry, something that will complement the wineries, the wine trails, the Bunya Mountains, the other things people come and see,” he said.
The Kingaroy to Kilkivan Rail Trail will be about 89km long, and has the potential to also connect to the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail and the Bicentennial National Trail.
“This could mean a continuous trail that connects Ipswich to the Sunshine Coast with a trail that traverses the picturesque regional communities of Somerset and the South Burnett,” Mr Seeney said.
Member for Nanango Deb Frecklington said today’s announcement was exciting news for the entire region.
“This is one of the biggest announcements by our government for the South Burnett and one which will have a major positive impact on the entire region,” Mrs Frecklington said.
“It shows that we have been listening to the needs of the community and are delivering on a commitment which will make a real difference for local businesses and the community in general.
“I can’t wait to see the Rail Trail open to the public and bring people to the beautiful South Burnett. This is a fantastic result made possible by the government’s Royalties For The Regions program.”
Mayor Kratzmann said the trail would bring some of the small towns in the area “alive again”.
More than 40km of the trail will be in the South Burnett, and it will intersect the towns of Murgon, Wondai and Kingaroy as well as Tingoora, Wooroolin, Memerambi and Crawford.
“Without the State Government I don’t know where our council would be in 2014,” Mayor Kratzmann said.
“I had the honour and pleasure to bring down our Budget today. It has a 2.75 per cent general rate increase. Our service charges would have went through the roof without the State Government, without the $10 million we got for the Kingaroy Waste Water Treatment plant.
“That job is $25 million. We were looking at borrowing $25 million … without that $10 million I don’t know where we’d be.”