Keeping the Byron Community Connected and On the Move
Being able to quickly and easily move around a region has a major impact on its liveability. Safe and reliable transport infrastructure means daily activities, like getting to and from work or school, are less of a challenge. It also fosters greater cohesiveness, supporting community members to come together and maintain important social connections.
A diverse local transport network is also important, providing multiple options for each journey and reducing reliance on any one mode. This is particularly true when an area’s population is growing, as it helps manage the strain on key infrastructure.
Here in the Byron Shire, we face a number of unique transport challenges that we believe require urgent attention. From reducing our reliance on cars to reinvigorating our rail corridor, we have plenty of opportunities to improve our mobility. We also have the chance to make the transport mix available in the region cleaner, greener, and healthier.
Here we share some of the ways we believe we can enhance the connectivity of the Byron community. We look at the progress we have already made and how this provides a solid basis for further improvements. We also outline what our priorities will be for the next Council term, if we have the honour to be elected.
Reinvigorating the Rail Corridor
We understand that, within the Byron community, there are many and varying views on how the rail corridor should be used. We know that many community members strongly believe that reinstating rail services is critical to improving connectivity and reducing traffic. We also know that there are many passionate advocates for creating a “rail trail” for pedestrians and cyclists to use.
Few community members have been more involved in these discussions than Byron Independents’ member, Peter Westheimer. Peter has been pushing for the reinstatement of rail services within the Byron Shire for almost two decades. This is a fight he first started during his time on Council (2004 – 2008) and something he continues to advocate for.
As a Group, we support Peter’s commitment to seeing rail services return, in addition to creating the rail trail. Council has already funded research into this multi-use proposal, which found the approach to be both economically and practically feasible.
While we would have loved to see services run from Casino to Murwillumbah, our neighbouring Shires have moved on from this. Both Tweed and Richmond Valley have previously indicated they will be focusing on using the corridor for walking and cycling only. However, we remain committed to exploring this as a local solution over the next 12 months, connecting at least Mullumbimby to Byron, but preferably also Bangalow.
We acknowledge that reinstating rail services will be a significant undertaking and have been working closely with Transport for NSW to explore our options. They are now beginning to recognise and talk about the benefits of rail travel in the region. It has been quite a process to get them to this point, yet we are committed to continuing this work over the next 12 months of the Council term, if elected. If there is light at the end of the tunnel ( pun intended ) then we will work to get it done.
Implementing the Pedestrian Access and Mobility Plan
We feel very fortunate to have played a leading role in the development of the Byron Shire’s first Pedestrian Access and Mobility Plan (PAMP). Adopted in October 2019, this document sets out an ambitious agenda for improving the quality and connectivity of our footpath network. As part of this, a program of rolling upgrades to existing infrastructure and creation of new infrastructure, have been planned.
Importantly, the PAMP is based on significant community consultation – over 700 Byron residents provided input into it via an online survey. Over 150 community members also participated in a series of localised design workshops that were held throughout the Shire. This has helped ensure that the Plan takes a whole-of-Shire view and reflects the priorities of our community members.
Since the release of the PAMP, Council has already managed to deliver a number of the highest priority projects. Work has also begun on the next round of upgrades, with almost a dozen more projects in the design phase.
If elected, we will continue to drive delivery of this program and work closely with the community to identify new projects. As part of this, we will support interested community groups to apply for funding for aligned projects in their area.
Reducing our Reliance on Cars
We acknowledge that our region’s ongoing population growth and high tourist numbers are increasing pressure on the local road network. While we will continue to ensure regular maintenance and upgrades are adequately funded, there is only so much this can do. As such, we are committed to creating and promoting alternative transport modes.
With the success of the Byron Bay Bypass road, we want to ensure that this is a lasting solution to traffic congestion. To do this, it is essential we also look at how a park and ride service could operate.
Closing existing gaps in the Shire’s 89km footpath and cycleway network should help. But, to get the most from this, we also need to encourage more residents to leave the car at home. As part of this, we need to promote the many physical, environmental, and logistical benefits of riding and walking.
We also need to rethink some of our existing transport structures and reshape them to better suit the community’s needs. For example, school bus services are currently the main mode of public transport throughout the Shire. However, these are run based on the school schedule, which does not suit most other residents.
Despite this, our buses are much larger than they need to be to meet the demand from school students. To make these services more cost-effective and environmentally friendly, we are proposing to use smaller buses. With the money saved, we propose adding extra services to the bus schedule, at times that suit the broader population.
The Byron Independents are committed to ensuring the residents of the Shire, along with visitors, are able to stay more connected and see more of our beautiful region. We are committed to working with you to enrich our community and environment. We are committed to positive change – now and in the future.
Wednesday, 10th of November at 7:30pm (online) to discuss our policy of Connected Communities. More information here.
Thursday, 18th of November from 5:30pm – 8:30pm at the Farm for ‘Sunset Drinks and Politics’ Find out more here.
Tuesday 23rd of November at Milk and Honey in Mullumbimby 5.30pm. Come and meet the Byron Independents candidates for an informal chat. See details here.