229 JOBS: New cycle track to boost tourism, bring employment
HUNDREDS of jobs are expected to be created with the announcement that a plan for the Bundaberg to Gin Gin Rail Trail will come to fruition.
Transport and Main Roads Minister Mark Bailey was in town today to talk about the plan and what it means for a regional economy like Bundaberg's.
"What an exciting day for Bundaberg, with the announcement the first rail trail is going to be right here in Bundaberg, co-funded by the Palaszczuk Government and Bundaberg Regional Council," Mr Bailey said, speaking from the Bundaberg Railway Museum over North.
Mr Bailey said rail trails were good for Queensland and brought tourists and he hoped Queensland would lead the way with rail trails.
"The rail trail program, the Palaszczuk Government started it a couple of years ago," he said.
"This is the first capital to come out to build one and it's in regional Queensland which means jobs and I know this is going to be really welcomed in the local area..."
Mr Bailey said rail trails would become an important part of the tourism economy.
The plan is for the first two stages of a 45km trail between Bundaberg and Gin Gin, and though it's referred to as a "rail trail" the track will primarily be for cycling.
"We're getting the first 23km done and it's really exciting to see," he said.
Local bike rider Rhianna Steindl, who cycles with the Mad Cyclologists, said she was happy to see a project that would provide a safe space for people to use.
"We're really excited about this project, eventually it will offer a safe route for cycling," she said.
"A lot of people get intimidated riding on the roads if they want to start cycling so this is a really safe place for them to do that - for all levels of experience, from the keen cyclist right down to the family groups.
Ms Steindl said with two small children, it was ideal.
She's been cycling since she was a child and said cycling was a fun and relaxing social activity.
"At the Mad Cyclologists we have about 40 members, so we ride every Sunday morning and we start at a different place each week and we always race as fast as the slowest rider so if we get ahead, we stop, we wait for them and then at the end we stop at a cafe and have a bit of a chinwag."
Bundaberg Mayor Jack Dempsey said it was an exciting project about bringing jobs and stimulating the economy.
"It will put this region on the map for rail trails," he said.
The mayor described it as an outstanding piece of infrastructure for many generations to come.
"Our economic benefit from this project being completed is over $3 million a year to the local economy, so that's an ongoing present that we get out of this project so we get the initial works, the benefits to the community and Australia and the rest of the world coming and visiting this area as well as having a long-term project that enhances people's lifestyles and makes us all proud of when you come here you can go to the turtles, you can go to the beaches and you can go on this iconic rail ride."
Mr Bailey said more than $9.5 million would be locked in to match council funding and create 229 jobs and the first two stages of 2.5m-wide trail.
"For every dollar we invest in bike-riding, that means $5 returned in economic benefit to our region - dollars crucial as we turn the tide on Covid-19," he said.
"When we talk rail trails, we're talking jobs in construction, jobs in tourism and new opportunities for local businesses.
"Post-construction, we are also talking more recreation options, and opportunities for locals to get out and about and enjoy their community."
The project will deliver a Rail Trail in the existing Bundaberg North to Gin Gin rail corridor connecting Bundaberg to Gin Gin, linking the existing Gorge Rail Trail and Watawa Trail.
The trail will be 2.5 metres-wide, with access to car parking areas, and will also include the refurbishment of the Splitters Creek Bridge plus the reinstatement of new pre-fabricated bridges where existing bridges/culverts were constructed in the flood openings.
"Global economies have done it tough due to Covid-19, and Queensland hasn't been immune.
Mr Bailey said the economic benefits were many.
"North Bundaberg and Gin Gin in particular will see increased business activity and have new recreational opportunities," he said.
"A feasibility study last year estimated potential economic benefits of nearly $3 million per year."