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An Upper Lachlan councillor has stood behind his decision to pull support for the Goulburn to Crookwell rail trail proposal.
Cr Nathan McDonald said he was well aware before a June 21 extraordinary council meeting that a state government report on rail trails' framework was about to be released.
The Rail Trail for NSW Evaluation Summary and a framework for their future set-up was released just two days after the meeting.
While an original motion gave in-principle support for the 56km Goulburn to Crookwell rail trail to be further investigated, Cr McDonald successfully moved an amendment, which put an end to the councils' led project. It was supported five votes to four.
In pre-council approved responses, Cr McDonald told The Post the reports' release was not going to change the situation. Since his election in February, it had "become evident that the council's budget was tight and maintenance of a large rail trail was unaffordable."
"We needed to make a decision, regardless of what the report contained," he said.
"... If we couldn't afford the cost back then, we certainly cannot now or in the future given the significant increase in materials and labour costs."
He referred to an earlier feasibility study that estimated $200,000 in annual maintenance costs. Cr McDonald argued that spending this type of money "wouldn't pass the pub test" and if the council had that type of money to "splash around," it would be spent on projects that "directly benefited the community."
Although Goulburn Mulwaree had agreed to fund the full cost of an updated feasibility study, Cr McDonald said it was still asking for ongoing support and he saw the opportunity to revisit the proposal. Rather than draw the process out any longer, he thought it better to withdraw now, based on Upper Lachlan's financial position, and not "lead our neighbouring council on."
Goulburn to Crookwell Rail Trail Inc committee chairman and Goulburn Mulwaree councillor, Bob Kirk, has been promoting the proposal for many years. Photo: Goulburn Post.
Goulburn to Crookwell Rail Trail Inc chairman, Cr Bob Kirk, has described the decision as "lacking vision and appreciation of the project." Studies had estimated $3 million to $4m in tourism income to the region from the rail trail. He also said full consultation with landholders would occur as part of the next step.
But landowners opposed to the plan have formed a group and lodged an e-petition to NSW Parliament.
Cr McDonald denied that he was pressured by landholders and said he was talking to concerned residents from both sides right up until 15 minutes before the meeting.
"....I had face-to-face meetings for most of the (previous) day with concerned landholders as well as supporters of the rail trail. Councillors were also supplied documents on the history of the proposal dating back to day one to assist in our decision. I had personally spoken with several supporters of the Rail Trail who had used the already constructed Rosweood to Tumbarumba trail," he said.
This article first appeared on www.goulburnpost.com.au
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