Queanbeyan Palerang council won't support Molonglo rail trail

Mary Walters on the Monaro Rail Trail line, at her property near Cooma. There is no indication the council will support the Monaro rail trail, from Queanbeyan to Bombala.  Photo: Rohan Thomson
Mary Walters on the Monaro Rail Trail line, at her property near Cooma. There is no indication the council will support the Monaro rail trail, from Queanbeyan to Bombala. Photo: Rohan Thomson

A community-funded feasibility study into a bike trail along an old railway line from Bungendore to Captains Flat has stalled after the Queanbeyan-Palerang council withdrew their support for the project.

It has come as a shock to the committee that raised $26,000 over two community events to fund the study, which is already under way.

At a meeting of the council on November 22, mayor Tim Overall made a casting vote to not support the project, despite it being specifically listed in the council's new tourism plan.

The council was initially only voting on whether to help the rail trail committee reach properties along the rail line with letters, for comment on the feasibility study. The rail trail committee had only been able to contact 14 of 24 landowners along the line.

However, councillor Trudy Taylor voted against the proposal, and said the council should not support the project.

"I don't believe we should be providing support," Cr Taylor told the meeting.

"I don't want to give the indication we should be supporting this project."

Other councillors didn't agree, expressing concern that the rail trail committee hadn't asked council to fund sending out the letters, but simply to facilitate the mail-out to ensure no landowners were missed.

The council's tourism strategy, developed during the administration period, states "an important initiative is to support the feasibility study for the Molonglo Rail Trail from Captains Flat to Bungendore".

The strategy also states, "QPRC should position itself as the ultimate cycling destination of the future".

It is understood the ACT government's soon-to-be-released cycling tourism strategy will also include support for rail trails in the region.

The Molonglo rail trail is one of two proposed rail trails for the region. The Monaro rail trail from Queanbeyan to Bombala has the support of the Snowy Mountains council and work is currently under way to fund a feasibility study.

The Molonglo Rail Trail committee was formed in 2014 and raised $26,000 in just two community events to fund their feasibility study.

President Bill Taylor said the council's decision was a shock.

He said the amount raised for the feasibility study, which was already under way, was "a pretty fair benchmark for community support".

Mr Taylor said the committee asked the council to help facilitate the mail-out of a call for submissions to the feasibility study. He said the letter was "pretty innocuous", and included a cover letter from the council which stated they had no position on it.

He said while the council's decision did not prevent more work from being done, the support was something they would work on. 

"One of the things we have to do is do a better job of engaging councillors, helping them understand there is a lot of community support for this, business support from this, but we really need to hear from landowners," Mr Taylor said.

Rail Trails Australia NSW representative John O'Brien said it was "very disappointing" to hear that a council wouldn't be interested in a project that would inject thousands of dollars into the local community through tourism.

The council did not respond to questions about their support for the proposed rail trail from Queanbeyan to Bombala. A rescission motion put forward by councillors who wish to support the idea is likely to be heard at the next meeting of the council.