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A small community’s big aspiration gains CVC support

Geoff Helisma |

Clarence Valley Council (CVC) will spend up to $5,000 (plus GST) engaging a consultant “to undertake a risk assessment of the Glenreagh Rail Precinct”.

The decision, unanimously supported by councillors at the July 23 CVC meeting, is a result of Glenreagh Rail and Station Preservation Society’s (GRASPS) initiative to restore the precinct as a historical monument.

GRASPS’ then president, David Murray, pitched the idea at the March CVC meeting.

At the April CVC meeting, Cr Karen Toms gained unanimous support for her notice of motion to authorise CVC’s general manager, Ashley Lindsay, to “investigate the possibility of [CVC] leasing” the Glenreagh Rail Precinct from the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) “and sub-leasing” it to GRASPS, or, alternatively, GRASPS leasing the precinct directly from ARTC.

In his report to the July CVC meeting, Mr Lindsay reiterated comments by ARTC’s Sydney property manager, Derek Rogers.

Mr Rogers said the ARTC “welcomes a suitable agreement … if an outcome can be achieved”; however, he said that ARTC preferred making an agreement with CVC, rather than GRASPS.

“ARTC cautions in relation to ensuring community groups have capacity to deliver,” with reference made to an agreement with a similar group in Dorrigo and the “limited capacity of the group to deliver”.

If CVC makes an agreement with ARTC it would accept “delegated responsibility for managing the rail corridor” and GRASPS “could be listed as a third party”.

“ARTC’s preference is for any initial agreement to be short term with limited scope so all sides are able to gauge progress before signing up to a longer term arrangement,” Mr Rogers said.

Councillor Richie Williamson, who spoke in favour of the motion, “echoing the sentiments of Cr Toms”, said he feared the proposal had come too late and warned that CVC needed to “make a very, very cautious and informed decision at some time in the future”.

He drew attention to the issues highlighted in the report and said “not one of those dot points is a win” for GRASPS or CVC, “everyone is an offload for the ARTC”.

“From what I’ve read here this could be the greatest hospital pass ever … it is so important to do a risk assessment,” he said.

He said it was a “crying shame” that ARTC had recently demolished the precinct’s water tower, due to safety concerns, and said he had been told that “if the west wind comes back the rest of the station could be blown across the tracks … what is left of the original station is now being held up by some strong support beams”.

“But we should give it the proper consideration it deserves … and it is appropriate that we get the right information,” he said.

Councillor Greg Clancy commended the Glenreagh community “for coming together like this”.

“It’s good to see people out here working hard for the community,” he said.

“Hopefully it’s not too late to save what (remains);

I know the community is confident they can do it.”

Councillor Karen Toms said the Glenreagh “community really deserves for us to try for them”.

“They’re stumping up money, they’re stumping up the work, they’ve stumped up their business plan,” she said.

“If they can pull this off, we’re going sit back pretty chuffed as a council.

“Just because the ARTC doesn’t have much interest in it, I think we owe it to our community to do everything we can to move forward, carefully.

“All risk can be managed and any identified can also be mitigated.”

Councillor Toms thanked the councillors for their support and the general manager’s offer to pay for the “consultant’s report from his own budget”.

A GRASPS spokesperson said they were “very pleased with the progress made so far”.