Rail study given Orara River money

COFFS Harbour Greens councillor Rodney Degens managed to wrest $25,000 away from the Orara River Rehabilitation Project for a local rail study during debate on the city’s $1.1 million 2011-2012 draft environmental levy budget on Thursday.

The feasibility study will examine the introduction of a rail service from Glenreagh to Macksville, using the existing North Coast rail line.

Cr Degens said despite being unanimously supported a year ago, the feasibility study had still not been acted upon.

He said funding the study was an opportunity to take a pro-active approach to the environment rather than cleaning up earlier problems.

He was supported by Cr Hines and Cr Bill Palmer. Cr Palmer said one of his favourite congresses was the National Roads Congress and it had become apparent that the amount of freight carried by rail would need to increase.

“This is one way we can help support it,” he said.

Cr Degens said estimates of the study cost indicated it would cost about $50,000

The Orara River Rehabilitation Project is the biggest-ticket item on the Coffs Harbour City Council list for environmental funding.

The Environmental Levy Working Group had recommended that the Orara River project be given $195,000 for work in and around the river this year.

The work, which includes erosion control; camphor laurel and privet control; fencing and a propagation nursery, is designed to maintain and improve the environment of the river which is the source of the city’s drinking water.

An amendment by Cr Jenny Bonfield, seconded by Cr Mark Graham, that the rail study be excluded from the draft schedule of environmental work for next year, was lost.

A foreshadowed amendment by Cr John Arkan, that funding be sought for the rail feasibility study and a report be brought back to the council stating the progress achieved and projects not achieved by the Orara River Rehabilitation Project, lapsed for want of a seconder.

While the Orara River sits at the top of the funding pyramid, the second most expensive item on the agenda is $193,000 for wages for biodiversity officers for the conservation and sustainable management of biodiversity in the Coffs Harbour area.

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