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Federal Member for Gippsland Darren Chester is stepping up his efforts to secure funding for a bushfire recovery project that’s predicted to provide a multi-million dollar boost to East Gippsland’s economic activity each year and create dozens of local jobs.

Mr Chester has been working to secure the remaining funding needed to upgrade the East Gippsland Rail Trail and the historic trestle rail bridges along the route, and extend the Gippsland Lakes Discovery Trail into Lakes Entrance.

“This is the only bushfire recovery project proposed by the community which covers such a broad geographic area and would benefit each town and community along the 100 kilometre route,” Mr Chester said.

“There is no other project which unites so many fire-affected and economically-impacted communities than the redevelopment of the rail trail and trestle bridge upgrades.”

The East Gippsland Rail Trail travels from Bairnsdale through Nicholson, Wiseleigh, Bruthen, Nowa Nowa and Wairewa to Orbost, all of which suffered significant social, environmental and economic losses from the summer bushfires. The Gippsland Lakes Discovery Trail branches off between Bruthen and Colquhoun and heads towards Lakes Entrance.

The work undertaken would include improving the surface of the key sections of the trail; upgrading connections to towns to encourage riders to take a break; installing new infrastructure such as shelters, rest areas, drinking fountains and seating; and tackling drainage, erosion and vegetation issues.

Mr Chester said the project had been given a welcome boost with the announcement last month of $3.5 million to restore the historic Snowy River railway trestle bridge.

“This project has the potential to become a legacy project that unites East Gippslanders as our communities recover from summer bushfires,” Mr Chester said.

“This is an obvious opportunity for all levels of government to work together and deliver a $10 million project with strong community backing.

“The project will draw much-needed government money into the East Gippsland economy to create local jobs by supporting local contractors and suppliers while the work is underway, and generate on-going economic stimulus to support further jobs including in the hospitality sector.

“When it’s finished, we will have a lasting, valuable addition to our local tourism infrastructure that diversifies our tourist offerings to allow East Gippsland to become a year-round destination of choice and grow our offerings to the lucrative cycle tourism market.”

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