Should it be developed, the Monaro Rail Trail will be a world-class rail trail. It is likely to attract users from not only from all over Australia but from all around the world – just as the equally spectacular Otago Central Rail Trail (OCRT) on the South Island of New Zealand does. In fact, there is an inevitable comparison between the OCRT and the proposed Monaro Rail Trail. The OCRT is a multi-day adventure in the high country of New Zealand (a 3-day bike ride for most cyclists). It passes through sheep stations and numerous towns and small villages. It provides views of distant snow-capped mountains for most of the year. It has brought prosperity to small towns and businesses (including farms) that were in decline.
This Feasibility Study has included an extensive community consultation programme and the results of that consultation are presented in this report. It is significant that of the 507 responses received by Council through an on-line survey, 95.9% supported the proposed rail trail.
This study was a broad look at the case for establishing a recreational trail for cyclists, walkers and runners along the 213 km of the disused rail corridor. It looked at strengths and weaknesses of the proposal and gave some indicative assessments of economic benefits and costs.
Economic benefits come from rail trail users seeking refreshments, meals and accommodation, in villages and towns along the route. Tourists already in the region might extend their stay with a short bike ride of a day or two. This group of users will add $1m to the economy.
New tourists from the strong cycling community in Canberra will be attracted by the multi day ride and will add $3m to the economy. Combined, both groups will expand the annual regional tourism economy by $4m, a 6% increase.
MRT President, Ms Mary Walters of Cooma, referred to the 17 year old Otago rail trail in NZ which draws domestic and international users who contribute A$10 m to the Otago region economy. The Monaro Rail Trail once established with good quality services and with sound marketing would achieve similar or stronger results.
The study concluded that the rail trail would be beneficial to the region and that a more detailed study was warranted. The Snowy Monaro Shire will be funding this study of costs and benefits.
Snowy Monaro General Manager Peter Bascomb says “Council is grateful to MRT for this report, which we’ll use as the starting point for the more detailed study which Council has planned.”