EXPLAINED: Rail trail feasibility report
WHAT: Boyne Burnett Inland Rail Trail is a proposal to create a tourism drawcard for the region by re-purposing the disused Queensland Rail corridors through the Gladstone and North Burnett regional council areas for recreational use.
There are more than 100 established rail trails in Australia, the majority in Victoria.
Last year, both councils successfully applied to have the costs of a feasibility study into the trail funded by the Department of Transport and Main Roads. Its final report has just been released.
The original scope of the study was to consider the entire corridor, from Taragoola (Calliope) to Reids Creek (Gayndah), but the final report has recommended the development of three sections.
These are: Awoonga Lake from Futters Creek bridge to Ubobo, Kalpowar Tunnels from Builyan to Kalpowar and Burnett River Bridges from Mundubbera to Mt Debateable.
"The case has been made that developing a series of shorter trails provides a better experience for a wider range of users (and provides for a cheaper project to both build and maintain),” the report said.
TOURISM OPPORTUNITIES: "There is no doubt that a package of three trails ... will attract users if presented as a package of three trails,” the report said.
"It will particularly attract new overnight visitors who want to do the three as a package.
"With the right marketing, the trails will attract local users, day trippers and visitors.”
The report noted that a three-trail package would be the most economically beneficial outcome for the Gladstone and North Burnett regions.
Using "relatively conservative” modelling, the Burnett River Bridges section could inject $881,981 annually into the economy, while a three-trail package could bring $6,248,999 to be shared between the regions, although these amounts would not be realised in the first few years of operation.
"Compared to the other two trails, the Burnett River Bridges Trail is close to more population and is the most attractive of the three trails,” the report said.
"However, the North Burnett Region has a very low number of overall visitors ... It is obviously not as well-known as a visitor destination as other local governments.”
The report canvasses the possibility a rail trail "may in fact stimulate development of tourism infrastructure” in North Burnett.
ISSUES: North Burnett Regional Council has moved it would not be able to fund any establishment or maintenance costs for its section of the trail, while Gladstone Regional Council has indicated a willingness to negotiate with the Department of Transport and Main Roads and other involved organisations.
The report quoted an establishment cost of $3,383,530, and annual maintenance costs of $90,680 for the Burnett River Bridges section.
The Department of Transport and Main Roads has advised 100 per cent funding could be available for a detailed design development plan and 50 per cent funding for establishment costs if applied for.
The remaining 50 per cent could come from Federal Government grants.
North Burnett Regional Council has moved it would help facilitate these grants.
It is now up to community groups to take the lead on the project, which the report notes has already been happening.
"There does appear to be a groundswell of support from groups and individuals within the surrounding communities,” it stated.
"It is also evident that there are strong advocates within the communities who have expressed a desire to get more involved in ensuring the proposed rail trail gets developed.
"This was particularly demonstrated by the Burnett River Rail Trail group who took the consultants to inspect the section of corridor between Mundubbera and Reids Creek on two separate occasions.
"A committed community-based group is an important element in a rail trail's success.”
Aside from questions of cost, other issues the report raised included anxieties held by adjacent landholders, such as biosecurity and access implications, and tenure irregularities involving leases, sub-leases and licenses, particularly around Mundubbera, although the report noted this latter issue could be resolved easily by agreement between parties.
NEXT STEPS: Gladstone Regional Council will apply to the Department of Transport and Main Roads for 100 per cent funding for a business plan. The North Burnett Regional Council has not as yet committed to this course of action.
There will need to be community consultation, which will help determine the level of local support for the project, which will be key to advancing the project.
It is now the volunteers and community groups who will lead this project, at least in the North Burnett.
The rail trail committee will be meeting in Kalpowar Hall on Friday, April 5 to discuss the feasibility study.
This meeting will be attended by both the Department of Transport and Main Roads and a Gladstone Regional Council officer who has been assigned to the project.