Karin Kolbe, President of TOOT (Trains On Our Tracks), has slammed the NSW Government’s Cross Border Transport Taskforce report, finally released yesterday more than 18 months late, as an exercise in politics over good planning.

Ms Kolbe said: “The five-page Cross Border report released yesterday doesn’t even address its own terms of reference.

“It doesn’t ‘investigate potential rail links’ nor does it look at any costs.
“This report was politically motivated and shows no evidence of any planning for the needs of residents or tourists.

“It understates the population growth figures, and it completely ignores the tourism figures. Over three million tourists visit here annually, yet they aren’t even mentioned in the report.

“Tourism is to our region what coal is to the Hunter Valley, yet there is no interest in developing transport infrastructure to support our major industry.

“86% of residents in the Lismore and Byron shires live within 5km of the Casino- Murwillumbah line (ABS, 2006), and the Lismore, Byron and Tweed shires all have higher population densities than over areas with regular rail services, such as the Southern Highlands and the Hunter Valley.

“This was a flawed process all along, as there was no serious analysis of the actual transport issues within the region, no proper community consultation process, and the public submissions totally ignored.

“The Minister even admitted on ABC radio this morning that he’d never visited the area to look at our transport needs.
“Perhaps he should come and have a look around for himself, and talk to the local community about the transport issues they confront, then he might at least be able to credibly claim to be making informed decisions on these matters.”

“Our population increased in the last year by 3727 yet the Report mentioned only 2500.”

Ms Kolbe said that:

In the 12 months to 30 June 2008, Tweed Shire had fourth fastest population growth rate in the state, at 2.6%.

Population growth rate for Byron Shire was 1.6%, higher than Ballina which had 1.5%.

Lismore was up 0.6% and Richmond Valley up 0.8%.

Across the State population growth was 1.1%.

Member for Ballina and Shadow Minister for the North Coast, Don Page, said the negative recommendations by Labor’s Cross Border Transport Taskforce does not change the NSW Coalition’s commitment to commuter and tourist rail services in the Northern Rivers.

Mr Page said the report is totally inadequate in addressing future rail links between the Northern Rivers and south-east Queensland. 

“The report is a reflection of the lack of commitment by the NSW Labor Government to public transport in the growing North Coast region,” he said. 

“This report has all of the hallmarks of something that was whipped up recently, after public pressure to release the long-awaited report. It is a very disappointing report and its negative recommendations reflect poorly on its authors. 

“There is no vision for the future and no commitment to rail services in this report.

“There are no costings in this report, no economic benefit cost analysis, no environmental assessment, no social impact assessment, no commitment to identify a future corridor and no real attempt to integrate transport on the Northern Rivers with south-east Queensland into the future.

“I believe there is great merit in providing local commuter and tourist rail services, especially to and from Byron Bay and to connect our rail system with the southbound Queensland rail line to Coolangattad.

“This report is the NSW Labor Government’s attempt to kill off the train issue once and for all. 

“But it doesn’t change the Coalition’s approach to future policy direction, which is very supportive of train services on the Far North Coast eventually linking up with Queensland. 

“That link will also guarantee future viability of rail services in the region, especially in the context of increasing population growth.”