I rise to speak in favour of the Tourist and Heritage Railways Bill 2010, which will provide for sustainable tourist and heritage railway operations in Victoria.
There are three key aspects in the legislation before us today. Firstly, the bill establishes a register of tourist and heritage railway assets; secondly, it provides for the modernisation of land tenure and asset allocation arrangements; and thirdly, it establishes a voluntary registration scheme for tourist and heritage railway groups.
I am sure that at one time or another each and every member of this chamber would have enjoyed the experience of a tourist rail facility. In her contribution Ms Pulford mentioned some facilities in western Victoria, but I also want to mention the Portland cable trams, the Bellarine Railway and the Daylesford Spa Country Railway.
These railways showcase some of the state’s most stunning beauty whilst also informing tourists and locals alike of our rich history. Many of those railways capture the true sense of rural and regional Victoria — its past and what it also has to offer into the future.
Nearly 4000 volunteers are actively involved in our tourist and heritage railways, which are not-for-profit groups. They include many train enthusiasts, many of whom are men who get together and utilise a wide range of skills. Often those skills are connected to older forms of technology. It is not just men who are involved in heritage railway maintenance and history; it is also women. I recall a situation when I had a funding announcement to make for the Portland cable tram and something like 90 people turned out at the heritage centre. I was taken through the history of the cable tram service by many of the women who play an extremely active role in making sure the service is maintained, and it is considered to be one of the most important elements of the Portland community. It is supported by that community in a general sense, but it also has a special place in the hearts of Portland people as well as regular visitors to the area who have gone there over the summer breaks and whose families for generations have experienced the cable tram.
We also believe the contribution of volunteers to our tourist and heritage railways is enormous. Only a few weeks ago I had the experience of joining the Bellarine Landcare Group and the Cotton On Foundation team to plant over 6000 plants and trees along the Bellarine rail trail.
That was a collaboration of the local Landcare group with the Cotton On company, which, over a two-day period, released some 600 employees to join with that group to plant a number of grasses and trees. The Landcare group itself has 40 active members, and as I said, they joined over 600 employees in that project, which will assist in returning grassy woodland vegetation along the rail trail.
I was particularly pleased on that day to see that the Bellarine railway voluntary group was working with and assisting the Bellarine Landcare Group and that it got the group and the Cotton On employees to its luncheon at Drysdale on the day. We know that volunteers are important, and this legislation assists in supporting their excellent work by establishing a voluntary registration scheme for these groups. This scheme will enable the central organisation of training and education, a more strategic and equitable distribution of grants and access to industry knowledge, and it will provide a forum for groups and volunteers to build stronger networks.
The Brumby Labor government is committed to the sustainability of this important sector, which it believes adds a very valuable economic, social and cultural contribution to our state. That is acknowledged through the various heritage and community grants that are available to a variety of the organisations that operate in this sector. I know that in terms of the Portland cable trams there was a funding announcement of $32 000 that has assisted its long-term viability. As a government we do that because we understand the important role that tourism plays, particularly in rural and regional Victoria. There is an estimation that the Portland tramcar generated about $35 million for the local economy over the last six years.
As we know, tourism is essential for our rural and regional locations around the state, and this legislation, again, seeks to underpin that important work. But another important aspect of this legislation is that it will modernise the land tenure and asset allocation arrangements.
At present railway and tourist railway groups are uncertain as to what land they are responsible for, as well as their rights, needs and obligations. The current framework lacks clarity and consistency. This bill will nullify these inconsistencies and clarify the confusion that currently exists.
In conclusion, Victoria’s tourist and railway operators, groups and volunteers are a valuable part of our tourism industry and our social fabric. I am happy to stand in this place today in support of this important sector and all those who contribute to its preservation with their hard work and commitment to the heritage of our state. This bill will ensure the ongoing viability and sustainability of the tourist and railway sectors, and therefore I commend this bill to the house.