January 31, 2018
The South Burnett Regional Council will apply for a grant to assess the feasibility of extending the South Burnett Rail Trail from Murgon to Proston.
At its January meeting, Councillors heard the State Government currently has a Rail Trail Local Government Grants (RTLGG) program which will provide full funding for rail trail feasibility studies and trail development plans.
However, only councils are eligible to apply for it.
The Coverty Creek Community Development and Social Club, which held a well-attended public meeting in Proston on January 8 to discuss the topic, had requested Council take up an RTLGG grant to examine the potential Murgon-Proston trail in more detail.
Mayor Keith Campbell, Deputy Mayor Kathy Duff, Cr Ros Heit and Cr Gavin Jones attended the meeting, along with Cr Desley O’Grady from Gladstone Regional Council and former Gayndah Shire councillor Mike Goebel.
Both Cr O’Grady and Mr Goebel are members of the Boyne-Burnett Inland Rail Trail Committee, which plans to build a 280km trail between Gayndah and Taragoola, near Gladstone.
The pair told the Proston meeting their group had already applied for a similar grant through Gladstone Regional Council, and hoped their own feasibility study would be completed in the near future.
The motion for the South Burnett to do the same was moved by Cr Ros Heit and seconded by Deputy Mayor Kathy Duff.
“I fully support this,” Cr Heit said.
“It will give us the information we need to make an informed decision in the future, and will also provide information about the costs and benefits.”
Cr Gavin Jones said while there had been a lot of support for the idea at the Proston meeting, there had also been negativity from some farmers who raised concerns that would need to be addressed by any study.
“I will support a feasibility study (for that reason),” Cr Jones said, “but I do not guarantee to support a trail in future.”
Mayor Keith Campbell said the Proston meeting had been well attended and he was impressed the organisers had invited BBIRTC members, but he also noted the opposition of a small group of farmers.
He agreed with Cr Jones that any commitment to carry out a feasibility study did not necessarily guarantee support beyond that step.
Cr Roz Frohloff said she had major concerns carrying out a feasibility study would give false hope to the idea’s proponents, and she supported the farmers who were opposed to the study.
Mayor Campbell pointed out any concerns farmers might have would be addressed by a feasibility study.
Cr Duff said she believed the opposition of a small number of people should not stand in the way of a detailed and impartial examination of the idea.
“I think we owe it to the Proston community to do this,” Cr Duff said.
Cr Terry Fleischfresser said he did not dislike rail trails but was wary about ongoing maintenance costs.
“Most rail trail users come from outside the area and make no contribution to upkeep,” Cr Fleischfresser said.
“I’ve yet to be convinced rail trails bring in any money to the South Burnett or produce any economic benefit to the community.
“I am also worried that the current rail trail doesn’t have a Master Plan, that only a small percentage use it and that is a huge impost on all ratepayers who don’t.”
Cr Duff stressed that local governments were the only organisations that could apply to have a feasibility study carried out
“I congratulate the Coverty Creek Community Development Association for bringing this to our attention, organising a meeting and bringing out supporters and objectors.”
Cr Danita Potter said Council was simply supporting the first step of what could be a long process.
“This is only a feasibility study,” Cr Potter said.
“Personally, I believe that rail trails are a key part of the South Burnett and they also bring many community health benefits.”
The motion to apply for a feasibility study grant was carried 5-2, with councillors Frohloff and Fleischfresser opposed.