A LIBERAL Party supporter and district landholder says he will fight “tooth and nail” against a rail trail proposal.
Former stockbroker, merchant banker and head of Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s Business Advisory Council Maurice Newman is one of about five Roslyn and district property owners opposing the Goulburn to Crookwell rail trail.
The concept is yet to secure funding and planning approval but already the farmers are nervous.
Mr Newman, who has previously been accused of using his political contacts over the Crookwell Three wind farm, said he’d already taken his concerns to Planning Minister and Goulburn MP Pru Goward and Upper Lachlan Shire Council Mayor John Shaw.
“I see it as an opportunity to indulge the interests of a few people at the cost of many,” he told the Post.
“The idea of having 50 to 60km of track costing $12 million – well, I can think of 12 million other things that it can be better spent on.”
Mr Newman argued the trail would have very real impacts on graziers, including potential to spread pests and weeds.
Landowners have also received agronomist advice that ripping up sleepers and track could release arsenic into the soil, spreading it to animals and stopping their sale at abattoirs.
He said graziers simply didn’t want “20,000” people walking through their property, throwing wrappers around and posing safety issues.
“…This is a lot of money and it renders our paddocks virtually unusable, so from a farming point of view it has more negatives than positives.”
“As far as landowners are concerned, we’re on a unity ticket and we certainly will fight tooth and nail against this because it is partly our livelihood at stake,” Mr Newman said.
The trail would run 1km through his Woodhouselee property.
Mr Newman also questioned the line’s ownership, given that property holders had originally gifted the land to the government. A proviso was that it not be fenced. In contrast, the rail trail would be fenced.
Regional tourism minister John Barilaro has acknowledged the need to establish ownership and draft legislation for the line’s use.
But the Sydney businessman contended the money would be better spent on hospitals and the council’s vast network of rural roads, many of which were in a ‘poor state.’
“This will go through the heart of properties and I think that is totally unacceptable and unconscionable,” he said.
Roslyn graziers Andrew and Katrina Nixon agree. The line traverses 2.1km of their holding, ‘Merryvale’.
Biosecurity and the “inadvertent movement” of weeds along the section are among their biggest concerns.
“For us it will have a major impact on our business,” Mrs Nixon said.
“We are not part-time farmers, but fulltime and this will mean we can’t use sections of our land.”
Both Mr Newman and the Nixons have also questioned the adequacy of future maintenance funding for the project.
Goulburn to Crookwell Rail Trail Inc chairman Bob Kirk has pledged to work with landowners on their concerns.
The tourism trail is yet to attract government funding.