Nationals cover up rail re-opening report, Narrandera councillor sacked as rail rep
Narrandera Shire Council sacked Councillor Wes Hall from his role as rail representative on Tuesday, for publicly speaking out against the NSW Government hiding of a report on re-opening the vital Narrandera to Tocumwal rail line.
It seems clear the NSW Nationals are behind the decision the suppress the report and sack Cr Hall.
A $500,000 taxpayer-funded study on re-opening the vital Narrandera-Tocumwal rail line, completed in August, has been hidden from the public for the past three months.
On Monday, ABC Riverina reported Cr Wes Hall criticising the NSW Government for keeping the report secret.
On Tuesday, Narrandera Shire Council sacked Cr Hall as their rail representative.
Broken promise to re-open line
The Narrandera-Tocumwal rail line – in the middle of Australia’s Riverina “food bowl” – has been out of use for the last 30 years.
This has prevented local farmers from transporting their produce in the most cost-effective means. It’s also resulted in trucks clogging the pothole-filled Newell Highway.
In the run up to the Cootamundra by-election last year, the NSW Nationals announced plans for a "Narrandera-Tocumwal Railway re-activation", starting with a $500,000 feasibility report.
But now the report has been completed, they’ve kept it secret.
ABC Riverina reported Nationals Member for Cootamundra Steph Cooke saying the report was 'always meant to be commercial-in-confidence'.
Cr Hall said this is incorrect.
“Cr Hall, the mayor and a community representative were only informed of confidentiality at a meeting in Narrandera on 28 August 2018 when the final report was presented,” Cr Hall said.
Sacked for being honest
Matt Stadtmiller, Shooters, Fishers and Farmers candidate for Cootamundra, said he feels for Cr Hall.
“This is typical NSW Government bullying and intimidation. I think they’re behind the sacking"
“Councils are dependent on state government funding. So they’re put in a difficult position when someone speaks out”
"The NSW Government can't handle to truth. So the person who speaks out gets sacked"
"The Nationals aren't fair dinkum about doing anything for Narrandera's long term future," Mr Stadtmiller said
"We knew that when they made the announcement during the by election. It was designed to buy votes."
"Now they have been found out. They don't like the contents of the report and are hiding it from those who put their faith in them with their vote."
"Sure as sugar, just more money to a consultant and Narrandera has been dudded again."
“What’s the point of wasting tax payer money on a study if it’s kept confidential… I have read the report and with the exception of three pages I would classify as market sensitive, the report is not confidential at all,” Cr Hall said.
Cr Hall says improving rail networks has been his passion for the past 30 years and it’s the community who is losing out.
“This is the finest regional project we have … there are private interests biting at the bit to get this going”.
Mr Stadtmiller said, “traffic on the Newell Highway will double in the next ten years. We need to get our trucks off the road and allow our farmers to get their produce to ports by train… it’s vital for our region”.