'We never could afford the Rattler': councillor says
A letter to the editor by Gympie councillor Hilary Smerdon:
THE Rattler, a very discussed and in a lot of cases very unpopular project by the council. In my opinion, no, we never could afford it, this project was never going to come in on budget.
I have been in business nearly 30 years and I know if I was going to develop a project, especially if it involved resurrecting old infrastructure, that a budget would be calculated after all infrastructure was thoroughly inspected. This was not the case here.
The budget for the rattler was set at $10.8 million, this figure arrived at without any physical inspection of infrastructure, just visual.
That may be okay for track work but as has been proven, bridges are a different matter. We already have had blowouts in the costs and the latest yet to be costed blowout would be it seems be followed by other increases.
This trend is worrying to say the least and concerns me, as to what will be the total outlay to get the Rattler back on the tracks and then the ongoing costs to be borne by the ratepayer as I can't see the rattler ever being self-sufficient, therefore any maintenance required being funded by the ratepayer.
The return on money invested in this project is also worrying as a lot of the prospective customers will come from the Sunshine Coast and a lot of the benefits will be to businesses based on the coast.
Too many decisions are made by this council without all the facts being tabled to the councillors.
The councillors are after all supposed to be the elected representatives of this community and there to manage this region in a sustainable and well- planned manner.
I have seen a video done by a heritage railway expert on the viability of tourist railways such as the Rattler and the maintenance figures are high: $6000 per kilometre of track per year and $200,000 per year locomotive maintenance to name a few.
A lot of money to be found every year just to keep it on the track.
I attended a community meeting last Sunday concerning an indoor equestrian centre in Gympie and I am of the opinion that if a centre such as this was built, that the returns to the community would be far greater.
This type of facility going on other centres would be very popular and have more visitor dollars spent in local businesses.
The Rattler was and still is a favourite of many.
Perhaps Councillor Hartwig's proposal to run the Rattler to Monkland and integrate it with underground mine tours would have meant a cheaper establishment cost, less maintenance and possibly better patronage, which would have resulted in a more profitable tourist attraction for Gympie.