Ballina Labor candidate Paul Spooner.
Ballina Labor candidate Paul Spooner.

Spooner accused of ‘back-flipping’ over rail trail plan

BALLINA Labor candidate Paul Spooner has been accused of back flipping in his support for a Northern Rivers rail trail after publicly dismissing the proposal less than two months ago.

When candidates at a Sourdough Meet the Candidates function this week were asked for a yes or no answer to the question, "Do you support the rail trail?", Cr Spooner answered yes despite having made public comments to the contrary.

Following the rail trail funding announcement in January, Mr Spooner said the project "missed the mark" on locals' needs and would be better spent fixing the region's transport problems "not adding to it" with more tourists.

"What our communities need is transport solutions, not a bike track," Mr Spooner told Northern Star journalist Hamish Broome in January.

In a Byron Shire Council meeting on October 9 last year, Cr Spooner voted against a motion that the Byron Shire Council support the Northern Rivers Rail Trail Project, along with Crs Dey, Richardson and Cameron.

When asked to clarify his stance on the rail trail, Mr Spooner said he would support the project, but only if it could help alleviate traffic issues in Byron.

"I'm supportive of a rail trail, I think the idea of having a rail trail is fine," he said.

"(But) around Byron Bay we know there is major traffic issues and so I would want to see the rail corridor being utilised for other transport options."

Mr Spooner said he would be hesitant to support the rail corridor in Byron "until there's some consideration into how the corridor can be used to alleviate the traffic issues coming into and around Byron Bay".

Nationals candidate for Ballina, Kris Beavis, said his counterpart needed to "clear up the record" on his rail trail stance.

"I've been a supporter of the rail trail since the outset and I won't be changing that position. I believe it will bring real jobs and tourism to our region, things that are desperately needed," he said.

"Paul Spooner needs to clear up the record and tell the community what he actually means on the rail trail."

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