Res­i­dents wary of rail trail project

McIvor Times - - NEWS - By VIVIENNE DUCK

LAND­HOLD­ERS be­tween Wal­lan and Heath­cote are wor­ried their con­cerns over a pro­posed rail trail through the area won’t be heard, leav­ing them to deal with the pos­si­ble loss of farm­land.

The Mitchell Shire, to­gether with the City of Greater Bendigo and the Vic­to­rian Gov­ern­ment, are work­ing to as­sess the fea­si­bil­ity of a new 65km rail trail from Wal­lan to Heath­cote for recre­ational walk­ers, cyclists and pos­si­bly horse riders.

There is a pos­si­bil­ity the Wal­lan to Heath­cote Rail Trail could con­nect with the pop­u­lar O’Keefe Rail Trail, which ex­tends from Heath­cote to Bendigo. At 114km long, a full trail be­tween Wal­lan and Bendigo would be the third longest rail trail in Aus­tralia.

It is en­vis­aged that the route could one day form the key cen­tral link of a trail run­ning from in­ner Mel­bourne along the Merri Creek, all the way to Bendigo.

How­ever, res­i­dents along the pro­posed route aren’t con­vinced they have any say in the mat­ter.

Sub­mis­sions on the pro­posal close Mon­day, March 20.

The cur­rent fea­si­bil­ity study into the project has some res­i­dents in Heath­cote, Pya­long, Toob­o­rac and sur­rounds con- cerned their voices won’t be heard.

Although not against the trail, Pya­long’s Marla Stone said she was wor­ried peo­ple who may be af­fected don’t know about it.

‘‘I have some se­ri­ous con­cerns about a num­ber of as­pects but pri­mar­ily the very short time line for con­sid­er­a­tion — only one month,’’ she said.

‘‘The trail is a great idea but it will creep on to peo­ple’s prop­er­ties with con­cerns over in­ter­rup­tions to farm­land, lit­ter­ing and bio se­cu­rity.

‘‘We op­er­ate a heavy ve­hi­cle trans­port busi­ness and we don’t think shar­ing the road with bike riders would be very safe.’’

Ms Stone isn’t the only one not sold on the idea.

Sixty peo­ple have com­mented on a Face­book post by Mitchell Shire ad­ver­tis­ing in­for­ma­tion about lis­ten­ing ses­sions with mixed re­sponses.

‘‘Ter­ri­ble idea Mitchell Shire. No amount of money you of­fer will com­pen­sate for the fi­nan­cial and emo­tional stress you are go­ing to cause to the pri­vate land­hold­ers of the land you plan on com­pul­sory ac­qui­si­tion,’’ Tash Fyfe wrote.

How­ever, there were posts in sup­port of the idea.

‘‘I’ve been cam­paign­ing for this for more than a decade. I hope it will go ahead and any one who owns land af­fected by it will be fairly treated and com­pen­sated for any loss or dis­rup­tion to their life­style/ prop­erty,’’ Tanya Matthews wrote.

A Mitchell Shire spokesman said coun­cil was in the process of mak­ing fol­low-up phone calls to en­sure landowners were given the op­por­tu­nity to speak to them about the study.

‘‘Coun­cil en­cour­ages peo­ple to have their say by vis­it­ing the ‘Engaging Mitchell Shire’ web­site, learn­ing more about the fea­si­bil­ity study and com­plet­ing the feed­back form or an on­line sub­mis­sion,’’ he said.

‘‘It is im­por­tant to note that a fu­ture Wal­lan to Heath­cote Rail Trail is only a pos­si­bil­ity at this stage.

‘‘Coun­cil is in early con­ver­sa­tions with the com­mu­nity to de­ter­mine the fea­si­bil­ity of the project.

‘‘Po­ten­tial routes for the trail out­lined in maps are only in­dica­tive and could al­ter fol­low­ing dis­cus­sions with land­hold­ers, should the project go ahead.’’

To have your say you can visit a com­mu­nity lis­ten­ing post at one of the fol­low­ing two lo­ca­tions:

Pya­long Pri­mary School car park on Wed­nes­day, Fe­bru­ary 22, 3pm-4pm; and

Heath­cote Bush Mar­ket on Satur­day, March 4, 9am - 12pm.

More in­for­ma­tion can be found at en­gag­ing­mitchell­shire.com

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