IT’S A no brainer, according to bicycle enthusiast and Korumburra business operator John Kennedy.
He believes the council should re-allocate the $1 million they are proposing to spend on the extension of the Great Southern Rail Trail from Welshpool to Hedley to the western end of the line.
His end of the line.
And he’s looking for the “fast-forwarding of the rail trail project from Leongatha to Korumburra” as a matter of urgency.
“It would be the single biggest thing the shire council could do for Korumburra, something that would also benefit Leongatha, Meeniyan and the other points along the rail trail,” Mr Kennedy said.
“I’ve had a quote done on what it would cost to remove the old rail lines, and the contractor says he would do it at no cost, just for the opportunity to recover the steel.
“He’s successfully done the same thing in several places elsewhere in the state.
“Laying out the track would cost money but we’ve been given an overall price of $850,000. It would be the best bang-for-your-buck that the shire has ever spent,” he said.
“There have been studies done up at Bright, and the same is the case at Wangaratta, Myrtleford, in Tasmania and all these places where rail trails have taken over that you can expect to get an $8:$1 return on investment and that would be what’d you’d get here.
“I can see the shops getting a 5 per cent to 10 per cent boost in revenue across the year; the 14 coffee shops we have in Korumburra and Leongatha, the pubs, the real estate…
“Once you have more people coming to the area, and they will come when you build this, upwards of 500 people of a weekend, you will open the area up to more people and they’ll say, ‘why not move here to live?’
“There’s also the people who might like to ride to work along the rail trail or those who want to go riding but don’t like riding on our narrow roads.
“It’s the best thing you could do to link the two major towns in the shire and that would have a lot of benefits.
“Stage one would be the get the rail trail extended to Korumburra which really has to happen urgently and then we go on to Bena, Loch and Nyora as the second stage, which would also be great.”
Together with former shire mayor, Nigel Hutchison-Brooks of Ruby and Peter Smith of Nyora, Mr Kennedy has already made a submission for a change to the budget and they’ll support that at a special hearing this Wednesday morning.
In the draft budget, the shire is proposing to spend $1 million in 2018-19 on the Welshpool to Hedley section of the Great Southern Rail Trail in the hope of attracting joint funding with Wellington Shire, possibly through the Latrobe Valley fund. There’s also a projection of $3 million in each of 2019-20 and 2022-23.
Mr Hutchison-Brooks also believes opening the link between Leongatha and Korumburra makes the most sense on all levels.
“There’s already been a petition with approximately 3000 signatures collected and there’s overwhelming support for it in the community. Everyone wants this to happen and from a community health, social cohesion and economic viewpoint it needs to happen sooner rather than later,” he said.
Other points made in the submission include:
• There is no other project that can generate the multiplier return on investment
• It joins two towns and a surrounding area population of 12,000 people
• It will provide a far greater return on investment than the extension of the GSRT from Welshpool to Hedley
• It opens a safe access route between the two towns for families, enhancing health and safety outcomes
• Already impressive take-up by Melbourne ride groups but this would significantly increase those numbers
The deputation will present letters of support from the Korumburra Business Association, Korumburra Round Table and Leongatha Chamber of Commerce and Industry, as well as written quotations.
The group is seeking an allocation of $750,000 from the shire budget.