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Guide Banner 4 2015


Jeff Ibbotson, one of Rail Trails Australia New South Wales regional representatives, was in supportive company at Parliament House, Canberra, on 16 February.

On behalf of RTA Jeff attended a cycle tourism presentation hosted by Parliamentary Friends of Cycling Today, a bipartisan group of Federal MPs who are riders and interested in cycling issues. The presentation focused on rail trails and was organised by We Ride Australia, a cycling industry-led group.

Friends of Cycling co-chairs Dave Sharma and Andrew Leigh spoke enthusiastically about the economic benefits of cycle tourism, as did Minister for Regional Health Mark Coulton and Shadow Attorney General Mark Dreyfus. Co-chair Dr Helen Haines, independent member for Indi — home of northeast Victoria rail trails — also talked about ‘her’ rail trails.

The event finished with the RTA vice president Steven Kaye giving a presentation on the economic and social benefits of rail trails. This was by video as unfortuantely the Victorian lockdown prevented his attendance in person! The video can be viewed here.

NSW Members of Parliament also picked up Rail Trails Australia’s NSW RT information sheet, and the RTA fact sheet on the Linville Hotel success story on the Brisbane Valley RT.

Following the presentation Jeff talked with Mark Coulton, Minister for Regional Health, Regional Communications and Local Government. Mark represents an enormous electorate that stretches from Dubbo to Broken Hill. He enjoys cycling and is keen to promote cycle tourism in western NSW; Jeff says Minister Coulton showed great interest in the Central West Cycling Trail, which follows quiet back roads between Mudgee and Dubbo.

Jeff also spoke with Bert Van Manen, member for the southern Queensland seat of Forde, who is very keen to see some disused rail lines and other public land in his electorate repurposed for cycling trails. He made the observation that land used by high voltage power lines could help link up with other public land to make cycling trails.

On his home turf of SE NSW, Jeff chatted with Kristy McBain, a new MP whose electorate takes in the potential Monaro and Molonglo RTs, and Andrew Leigh who represents an ACT electorate but is most supportive of adjoining NSW RTs. Andrew urged Rail Trails Australia to encourage MPs with local government experience to talk about the benefits of rail trails to local government representatives.

Jeff’s impression of the presentation was very positive. He says, “I was struck by how bipartisan is the support for rail trails and cycle tourism among Federal MPs from rural and regional areas. It’s not a party political issue; it’s more a matter of educating MPs on the economic and social benefits, and asking them to support the economic recovery and regional development funding opportunities that are out there.”