Legislation to make it easier to approve new rail trails in NSW has been passed by both houses of the NSW Parliament, with the NSW Legislative Assembly voting in favour on 10 August.
The legislation enables the Minister for Transport to grant 30-year leases to local governments on disused government-owned NSW rail corridors for tourism purposes. Abandoned rail lines on ex-government corridors in NSW are currently regarded as non-operational but not closed. Previously, each rail trail proposal in NSW required a separate act of Parliament to “close” and re-purpose the corridor, resulting in political blockages to progress. This has now been addressed in the new rules, with a simpler process.
The visible success of the Tumbarumba to Rosewood Rail Trail in southern NSW, which opened in April 2020 during the COVID pandemic and was formally opened in April 2021, has been the major driver of this much-needed change in the NSW rules for rail trails. Rail Trails Australia commends the community groups who worked tirelessly for their achievement in being the catalyst for change.
Both major parties in the NSW Parliament supported the legislation. Rail trail proposals will still need to have demonstrated local community support and a positive business case. Local councils will continue to play a pivotal role.
Rail Trails Australia welcomes the new legislation as a positive development for the future of rail trails in NSW, which remains behind other States and other countries in realising the many benefits that rail trails offer. We also thank all of you who answered our call to action on 29 July before the legislation was formally voted on in the NSW Parliament and enabled it to be passed so relatively quickly after many years of lobbying.