A rail trail for cycling, walking and horseriding between Cootamundra and the village of Tumblong, 10km south-west of Gundagai, could bring millions of dollars in economic activity to our region, Cootamundra-Gundagai Regional Council was told at its meeting on Tuesday night.
Councillor Charlie Sheahan made an impassioned plea for broad community support for the idea, saying it was exactly what was needed in "these trying times".
"My decision to investigate the possibility of creating the Cootamundra to Tumblong rail trail now is because of the Covid-19 situation," he said.
"Overseas travel is seriously compromised, and will be for years.
"The future of tourism will be local. Australians will explore Australia. They will be seeking activities and attrractions locally.
"This will give us the opportunity to showcase our region.
"Our economy has been hit hard, especially tourism and hospitality businesses.
"These are the kinds of businesses that stand to benefit from the rail trail, and we could even see the growth of new businesses."
Cr Sheahan said both state and federal governments were currently emphasising the importance of jobs and economic stimulus in the wake of the pandemic.
He had recently spoken with Steph Cooke, the state MP for Cootamundra, and only this week spoke with the deputy prime minister and federal MP for Riverina, Michael McCormack, about the project, and they had agreed that it "ticks all the boxes".
"It could give employment immediately during construction, with ongoing employment in maintenance and stimulus to local businesses.
"After seeing the success of the recently-opened Rosewood to Tumbarumba trail in the height of this pandemic with local businesses booming, record numbers of visitors and new businesses including a shuttle service and bike hire already established, I'm convinced this would be a worthwhile project to develop to a shovel ready stage and present to the governments for funding."
Cr Sheahan suggested funding for a feasibility study could be sourced from the State government's New Council Implementation Fund (NCIF).
He proposed council prepare a submission to the NSW government, and ask it to re-allocate $100,000 from the NCIF for pre-planning, including addressing any issues raised by landholders along the former railway.
His motion was strongly supported by Mayor Abb McAlister, who said it would be "fantastic" for our economy, and council voted unanimously in favour.
- More page 6