Wagga City Council will take advantage of a limited-time offer of $11.7 million from the state government for new cycle trails despite concerns over potential impacts.
Councillors approved a business case for the Wagga Wagga Active Travel Project during Monday night’s meeting.
The state government will be asked to fund several cycle paths extending three to five kilometres out from Wagga’s central business district.
Council staff will now be able to negotiate and enter into easements, rights of way or access agreements where it is proposed that an active travel route be constructed on land which is not owned by council.
Some central Wagga residents, Rail Trail supporters and the Australian Clay Target Association have all opposed parts of the plan.
Mayor Greg Conkey, before voting for the motion, said the cycle trails would be a “far-reaching project” that would change Wagga.
The ‘Wagga Active Travel Project’, according to council, was designed to provide a “significant increase in the attractiveness of cycling as a mode of transport in Wagga”.
Cr Conkey said the council needed to act now to take advantage of the money for 43 kilometres of cycle trails.
“It will transform this city. $11.7 million just doesn’t fall from the sky; it was a surprise to us all when we received this amount of money,” he said.
Cr Yvonne Braid was the only councillor present to oppose the motion, which was carried by Crs Conkey, deputy mayor Dallas Tout, Paul Funnell, Dan Hayes and Tim Koschel.
Cr Conkey said he was a supporter of rail trails despite concerns the cycle path would interfere with future plans.
“I don’t think we can get a rail trail up in (just two years) and I do not want Forest Hill residents to be disadvantaged,” he said.
Earlier in the meeting, Wagga Rail Trail Inc chair Lisa Glastonbury had given a deposition to councilors outlining concerns with some of the cycle routes.
“Please don’t build another substandard cycleway; Wagga residents deserve better than that,” she said.
Australian Clay Target Association executive officer Tony Turner also told councillors that one of the proposed cycle paths would come close enough to Wagga Gun Club that path users would be able to see firearms pointed in their direction.
Mr Turner said the Wagga club brought $1.8 million a year in economic activity and other gun clubs had been closed down over complaints from neighbours located 5km away.
Cr Hayes said he understood the concerns and likened it to Sydney pubs and nightclubs closing down over new lock-outlaws, but said he would still back the motion.
Bob Maslin, representing Fox Street residents, said he had safety and disability concerns about people parking with the road between them and their houses and believed there were heritage implications.
Cr Funnell said he would fight for the land rights of farmers along the routes because “yobbos” might commit trespass.
Council will now prepare a detailed cycle route plan.