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Thursday, 24 March 2011
Page: 3401

Ms HALL (12:40 PM) —Saturday, 12 March, marked the end of a journey, with the official opening of stages 4 and 5 of the Fernleigh Track. This is a journey that commenced in 1993 after some years of negotiation. Lake Macquarie City Council and Newcastle City Council jointly purchased the former 15.5-kilometre private railway corridor between Adamstown and Belmont. Since that time the project has been a model of what local governments can do when they work together, what local government and state government can do when they work together and, since 2007, what local, state and federal governments can achieve when they work together.

The completion of this track is also a success for the people who will enjoy using it. It is already widely used by people who walk or cycle on it. It is a transport corridor between Newcastle and Lake Macquarie, with more and more people using it all the way, and it will be enjoyed for years to come. The track features a brick lined tunnel under the Pacific Highway and has focused on preserving the history of the corridor, with any possible rail track being left in place.

The Fernleigh Track is a major regional tourist attraction as well as being a transport corridor which will promote exercise and healthy lifestyle. It will encourage people to visit the region just to walk the track. In addition it will positively contribute to our ongoing fight against obesity. It is the type of structure that should be built in many communities throughout Australia. After a great effort from local, state and federal members of parliament, this innovative track has been adequately funded and completed and has given Shortland and the Hunter region a magnificent track for all members of the community and visitors.

I would like to pay tribute to former Lake Macquarie councillors John Jenkins and Alan Shields, who worked very hard in the early stages to see that both the councils came together and purchased this corridor. I also want to pay tribute to Marilyn Eade and Ed Tonks and representatives from the Newcastle Cycleways Movement and the Parks and Playgrounds Movement, particularly Doug Lithgow. In addition, the former state member for Charlestown, Richard Face, made an enormous contribution in the early days. Subsequently, the current member for Charlestown, Matthew Morris, has continued to support the program, as has the member for Swansea, Robert Coombs, who is very supportive and worked hard to see that the track was completed at Belmont. I also want to pay tribute to Ken Powers, Richard Sherry and Stuart Dawson for the contributions they have made.

The pathway winds through both suburbia and bushland, preserving pieces of early Australian history dating back to the 1880s. The finished Fernleigh Track entails shared cycle and walking paths. It stretches 15.9 kilometres, from Adamstown to Belmont TAFE, and passes through Kahibah, Whitebridge, Redhead and Jewells.

As I have said, the pathway winds through a number of different environments. The track will benefit current members of the community and will be an asset for future generations. The Fernleigh Track will be an important part of the state’s coastal cycle ways and has many local cycling enthusiasts enthralled with its completion. This stage of the Fernleigh Track not only offers members of the community a beautiful walk through Belmont Wetlands State Park but offers a safer alternative for cyclists.

On 2 April I will be attending the Fernleigh Track family day. This day has been put aside to celebrate the completion of the Fernleigh Track. It will be a day when everybody can get together and enjoy the history of the area and enjoy this fine track that has now been completed.