A "dangerous" rail crossing's location could hinder future development of council land, described as a prime agricultural block that could present a "massive opportunity" for Goulburn.
The crossing, at the end of Gorman Road, came in for attention at the most recent council meeting. Councillors again considered options for its 638-hectare effluent irrigation farm, which has largely become surplus since completion of the new wastewater treatment plant. Highly treated effluent can now be discharged directly into the Wollondilly River, rather than irrigated on the land.
The total parcel stretches from Gorman Road over to Taralga Road.
Mayor Bob Kirk agreed with staff that a portion at 273 Gorman Road should be kept for a future cemetery for Goulburn, but leased in the meantime via expressions of interest. But he disagreed with them that expressions of interest should be invited for sale or lease of the remaining 379ha.
"My view is we should retain ownership to achieve the maximum economic, social and environmental benefit for Goulburn Mulwaree, which is in line with a 2015 resolution we made on land off Taralga Road," he said.
Cr Kirk said while the council could utilise several million dollars recouped in any sale, he believed there were greater possibilities, given past interest. Parties previously flagged a large market garden and a waste to energy project.
"...It will provide a tool to attract business to town. We own the land and I don't think we need to dispose of it but I think we need to give it more time and thought," he said.
Utilities director Marina Hollands described it as prime agricultural land with a secure water source. "It could present a massive opportunity for the city," she wrote in her report.
"If there was interest in an agricultural use, it would be opportune to do this now while the irrigation system is still operable on the site."
Councillors endorsed the Mayor's view that the council seek expressions of interest for a public-private partnership from business and industry groups in an activity giving "long-term economic, social and environmental benefits for Goulburn Mulwaree".
However there are several hurdles to jump yet.
This portion will need to be rezoned from 'infrastructure', enabling council use, to one that allows for private development. The area is also subject to flooding. In addition, there's the rail crossing, which is private but managed by the Australian Rail Track Corporation, giving the council passage to its land.
Mrs Hollands said the crossing was "very dangerous" with no lights nor boom gate and "poor sight distance." She told the meeting that the ARTC had no plans to upgrade it, given the estimated $1 million cost. "They wanted to remove it from us years ago, so I doubt they'd be happy with changing it for operational use," she said.
Cr Kirk also moved that discussions commence with ARTC on how to achieve "safe access" over the railway line. He understood that ARTC preferred to upgrade the Murrays Flat Road rail crossing, which could also give council access, but this needed to be clarified.
Cr Margaret O'Neill said the safety aspect had to be resolved before the council started talking about development options, especially given faster trains coming through.
For this reason they also set aside Goulburn Campdraft Association's request to use a portion of the land as a permanent home.
But Cr Andrew Banfield argued if the rail crossing issue was resolved, it could pave the way for an equine centre in the area.
Councillors have been discussing the land's future since 2015. At that time they invited expressions of interest, only to abandon them until they had more information on the wastewater plant upgade's timeframe.
Now, nothing will happen until the portion is rezoned. In the meantime, councillors agreed to call expressions of interest in stock agistment. This was despite Mrs Hollands' comment that agistment would be difficult because all watering points had been removed due to the irrigation.
Councillors also decided to look at options to separate a biobank at 632 Taralga Road, used as an offset for the Highland Source Pipeline, from the remainder. The latter portion could be offered for sale via expressions of interest to adjoining owners. It does not have road frontage but is accessed via an unformed road.
Finally, the council will start rezoning and subdivision for residential blocks on another two lots at 534 Taralga Road, but retain the biobank and a paupers cemetery.
Reports will be brought back for councillors' consideration.
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