My adjournment this evening is for the Minister for Public and Active Transport, and the action I seek is that they support the proud rail tourism industry of north-east Victoria. Rail tourism is an important industry in my region, but it is sadly overlooked for much-needed funding from this government. With the lack of recurrent funding for Heritage Victoria and an obsession with Puffing Billy, several rail tourism opportunities in my region are being ignored. As it stands, projects in our region require infrastructure investments that will allow this untapped opportunity a chance to thrive. With the silo art trail, a thriving arts scene in Benalla and top-level markets in Violet Town, there are so many places to see along the train line. A tourist rail on the existing line between Benalla and Yarrawonga could take passengers through Goorambat, Devenish, St James and Tungamah to witness world-renowned artists, including Cam Scale, Sobrane and Tim Bowtell. The plans and infrastructure are there; this project just needs support from the state government to go ahead. The New South Wales government provides more than $9 million to heritage rail; Victoria currently contributes nothing. But it is simpler than that right now for the state. All we are asking at present is that the tourist trains be allowed to utilise the Oaklands freight line from Benalla to Yarrawonga.
I have been lucky enough to attend events right across the Euroa electorate and see firsthand what benefits a properly funded rail tourism industry could provide. Earlier this year I was invited to the Seymour Railway Heritage Centre to witness their restoration of a vintage locomotive. Since its inception in the early 1980s SRHC has evolved to become one of three major mainline preservation heritage rail groups in Victoria, led enthusiastically by president John Crofts and treasurer Barbara Moss. Their dedication to the restoration and preservation of vintage locomotives, carriages and rolling stock from the golden age of rail travel in Australia is phenomenal. They have become a vital part of the local community in Seymour and a popular destination for tourists all over.
More recently, through attending events at Violet Town’s Southern Aurora Memorial and a celebration of the 150th anniversary of the north-east train line, I have met incredible people who are preserving an important part of local history. On top of that, charters and tourism trips on vintage trains continue to draw amazing crowds of eager train enthusiasts. You will not meet a group of more passionate people than those involved with our railways. One of these people is Benalla’s local legend and lifelong rail enthusiast Charlie Mead. Eighty-four-year-old Charlie started his career constructing railway lines and other infrastructure in 1957. Charlie’s impact on the industry went far beyond his work in an official capacity. For many years after his retirement he volunteered at Benalla train station, tending the gardens and helping passengers as they disembarked. I want to thank Charlie for sharing his contagious passion for the north-east railways with me. For people like Charlie, seeing proper investment in our rail tourism industry would be a dream come true.