Items filtered by date: February 2021
Letters to the editor - Bairnsdale Advertiser 17/02/2021
Dear Editor,- We read with sadness in last week’s Bairnsdale Advertiser the current East Gippsland Rail Trail committee missed out on any major funding from governments at all levels in recent handouts.
To add further distress it appears the dilapidated Snowy River viaduct going nowhere has received 3.5 million to become pleasing to the passing eye.
Not that we begrudge that committee the $3.5 million of public money, but at the very beginning of the East Gippsland Rail Trail, the steering committee and the foundation committee, did not want bridges to be maintained with public money as the cost appeared too great for public sentiment to swallow.
When rail trails were first launched with the blessing of Jeff Kennett and his driving political disciple of rail trails across the state of Victoria, Graeme Stoney, the East Gippsland Rail Trail was the longest proposed in Australia.
Today the trail lags the rest of the trails in Australia due to lack of ownership by local council and the lack of political understanding of what a great asset the trail is and could be.
The local rail trail committee members for many years have been passionate visionaries but have failed to have the trail developed as they have been in other parts of Australia.
The local committee is to be commended for its tireless volunteer work just maintaining a profile for the trail while it sinks in many sections into disrepair across East Gippsland.
We hope for the future there is some political leadership (at all levels) championing the upgrading, promotion and development of the East Gippsland Rail Trail.
Past East Gippsland Rail chairs and passionate committee members.
The East Gippsland Rail Trail Committee of Management has expressed dismay that its application for a grant to fund major upgrades to the trail surface was rejected.
The Rail Trail committee had applied for $5 million under the Local Economic Recovery Program, which was set up to fund projects in areas affected by the bushfires.
While it is jointly funded by the State and Federal governments, the State is responsible for doing the assessment of applications requesting grants.
Chairperson of the rail trail committee, Al Campbell, said management applied for the funding in order to carry out major upgrades to the full length of the 95km track which extends from Bairnsdale to Newmerella.
“We wanted to create a fantastic asset for the people of East Gippsland and generate economic opportunities for people in those townships along the rail trail who were affected by the bushfires,” Mr Campbell said.
“We even broke the project up into segments”, Mr Campbell said, which would have allowed scope for funding particular sections of the trail.
“None of it was funded, not a brass razzu.”
“It’s a lost opportunity, we’re just really disappointed for the whole area.
“We are surprised and frustrated but we’ll keep working to try and source funds for major upgrades.”
He described the rail trail as a “regional facility that requires proper investment that will attract more people”.
“The economic flow-on for the area is enormous,” Mr Campbell said, citing communities such as Bruthen, Wairewa and Tostaree, which bore the brunt of the bushfires, as having missed an opportunity to benefit from the rail trail’s upgrade.
Mr Campbell said along with the track surface, several small bridges on the trail were also in need of urgent repair.
“Some of them are falling to pieces,” he said. Mr Campbell said the committee had also planned to use the funds to provide roadcrossing safety upgrades, improve signage, and undertake vegetation management and erosion control.
He said the work would have been carried out using local contractors, suppliers and labour, thus providing a flow-on effect to the folk of East Gippsland, who’ve been scarred by the bushfires.
“We run on the smell of an oily rag, we’re a volunteer committee of management and receive very little in the way of funding from anybody,” Mr Campbell said.
Late last year the Snowy River Bridge at Orbost received $3.5 million for restoration works.
Mr Campbell said the bridge is completely separate from the rail trail but wonders whether there was confusion from the bureaucrats in relation to whether it was part of the same project.
“We have a suspicion that the bureaucrats thought we managed the bridge as part of our management and funded that thinking it would be an upgrade of the entire rail trail, which it’s not,” he said.
“We’ve now asked for detailed information about why our grant request was unsuccessful,” Mr Campbell said.
“We just want to find out where we went wrong because we think it was the most supported grant application for the district.”
IMAGE: Al Campbell, chairperson of the East Gippsland Rail Trail Committee of Management, says he’s “disappointed” that an upgrade of the trail was overlooked. K30-9498