By Arthur Gorrie, Gympie Today
The formal separation of the Rattler Railway Company from its Gympie Regional Council coat tails is finally official.
A council and Rattler joint announcement on Wednesday morning was exactly what many involved needed to hear, after the separation agreement was first announced, much more than six months ago.
Mayor Glen Hartwig and Mary Valley Rattler General Manager Linda Barry made the announcement at Old Gympie Railway Station, in the company of council CEO Robert Jennings and Rattler board member Garry Davison.
Describing the Rattler as “one of the region’s premier tourist operations,“ a spokesperson today would be the end of one era and the start of another, one of the Rattler’s independence from Gympie Regional Council.
Representatives of both parties had signed divestment paperwork last week, the spokesperson said.
The Rattler will now continue its heritage themed ventures to the Mary Valley, free of council oversight.
Cr Hartwig described the deal, adopted unanimously by the Rattler board, as “mutually beneficial.“
“I am excited to announce that today, the Rattler is now free of the confines of Council, and free to take charge of their own future,” he said.
“This is a win for not only the ratepayer and the council organisation, but also for the Rattler.
“This deal takes the burden off the rate payer while giving this vital tourism attraction autonomy.
“As a not-for-profit business, the Rattler can source its own funding which stands to be more lucrative than any continued support Council can offer.
“It’s a win, win,” he said.
Chair of the Rattler Railway Company, Ian McNicol, thanked Mayor Hartwig and Gympie Regional Council for finalising the agreement and showing council support for the iconic tourism attraction.
“Clearly, recent years have been very challenging for the operation of the Mary Valley Rattler, and Gympie Regional Council’s support has been vital in ensuring we have been able to withstand the pressures of floods, pandemic and other external factors to continue operations,” said Mr McNicol.
“The agreement provides certainty not just for our employees and volunteers, but also for the tourism community in wider Gympie.
“With the Gympie bypass coming into operation next year we will need to proactively entice travelers to divert from the highway and come into Gympie – and the Mary Valley Rattler will be instrumental in (this).
“Our goal is to take a leadership role in driving tourism to Gympie, and we look forward to continuing working with Council, the State Government, the Regional Tourism Organisation and local tourism operators to ensure Gympie retains a strong place on Queensland’s tourism map.”
Mary Valley Rattler General Manager, Linda Barry, said the new agreement came at a time of very positive indicators for the attraction.
“We have rebuilt our customer base to over 2500 passengers per month, which is ahead of pre-Covid levels.
“We have introduced new services, reviewed and upgraded existing services, and achieved high levels of customer satisfaction, so we are certainly on the right track for a sustainable future,“ Ms Barry said.