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18/09/2016 Comments (0) News

Is completion of the BVRT in jeopardy?

For the past 2½ years, we’ve been orchestrating a grass roots campaign to get the BVRT completed. Anyone who thinks that the funding announcement of $1.8 million was the end of the campaign doesn’t understand how these things work. It’s never as simple as that.

I don’t know exactly how the figure of $1.8 million was calculated, but it seems to be derived from a combination of historical, political, economic and civil engineering factors. In my more cynical moments, I sometimes suspect the back of an envelope came into the equation somewhere, but perhaps I’m being unkind.

What has transpired is that there are some strong differences of opinion between State and Local Government when it comes to actually working out the necessary standards and costing for doing the work between Toogoolawah and Moore.

Both sides are working hard to resolve the differences, but at the present time they’re about $1 million or so dollars apart and that’s a lot of money. I suspect this is a normal situation in the poker game that’s played between the different levels of government over funding for major projects.

I’ve been given a tour of the work that needs to be done and there can be no doubt there are some challenges created by the number of creek and road crossings. In addition, time has not been kind to the old railway corridor. There has been erosion caused by floods, the timbers of the remaining old bridges have rotted, some of the bridges have been washed away, and in some sections north of Harlin, material has been taken from the railway corridor to build the road alongside.

Let me be clear, I’m not being critical of either side. They both come to the problem from a different perspective and both are valid.

In a nutshell, the Queensland Government takes the view that they’re providing funding for basic connectivity and Somerset Regional Council, not unreasonably, takes the view that if the job is done to a higher standard, there will be cost savings into the future after they have taken over responsibility for maintenance of the trail.

In this situation, both sides hold strong hands. The Queensland Government obviously has control of the purse strings, but they’re keen to hand over responsibility for the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail to local Councils. They won’t accept responsibility for the trail, even with the $250,000 p.a. contribution towards maintenance, if they think there will be any significant, additional costs to Ratepayers caused by a lower standard of works than they would have liked.

Obviously, as primary beneficiaries of the project, end-users would like the work to be done to a higher standard, but getting the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail completed is the main priority. We just want the job done to at least the standard of the rest of the trail. It never was and never will be anything other than an adventure trail and that’s the way most of us like it.

There will be meetings between both sides in the next couple of weeks and hopefully they’ll agree the scope of works and costing.

From my reading of the situation, both sides will probably agree that the project requires additional funding, but that’s a decision that will have to be taken at ministerial level with no guarantee of a positive outcome. Effectively, that means completion of the BVRT could be in jeopardy.

That’s going to be where we come in. Nothing succeeds like success and we’ve amply demonstrated that the BVRT is an important tourism and economic asset.

We’ll keep everyone informed, but soon there may come a point where we need to call upon our members and supporters to start lobbying and lobby hard for additional funding to get the BVRT completed. Petitions, letters to your local State member. letters the Minister, media engagement, etc. All the usual grass-roots campaign strategies may need to be deployed.

We’re not there yet, so please watch this space.

Thank you.
Paul Heymans, President
Brisbane Valley Rail Trail Users Association.

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