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Council backs calls for roads funding reform

A new report from the NRMA has identified a funding shortfall of $1.7 billion to bring New South Wales roads up to standard.

The NRMA “Funding Local Roads” Report identifies the disadvantages faced by small rural Councils with a large geographic area such as Bland Shire and calls for major reform to Government funding for roads.

According to the report, Bland Shire Council has the largest shortfall of road maintenance funding among all South West Councils of $4.74 million despite spending more on road maintenance than any other Council in the south west with the exception of Wagga Wagga.

An infrastructure backlog of $4.22 million for road repairs in the Bland Shire was also identified.

The findings and recommendations in the NRMA report support the case recently put forward by Bland Shire Council to the New South Wales Local Government Grants Commission for improved and fairer funding for rural Councils with a large road network.

“The structure of road grants also tends to favour heavily populated local councils. Geographically larger and less populated regional councils outside urban areas and major regional centres are disadvantaged attracting sufficient funding to maintain their critical asset bases,” the NRMA Funding Local Roads report found.

“Most of the 146,000 kilometres of Council-controlled roads in NSW run through the west of the state, so an enormous proportion of the backlog falls on those of us who live west of the Great Dividing Range,” NRMA Deputy President, Fiona Simson said.

“In the west, there are seldom transport alternatives to roads. Regional councils have done all they can to reduce this backlog, but without recourse to increased funding from the Federal and State Governments the road toll will continue to be felt painfully in local communities.”

The NRMA report identifies seven key recommendations to the Government, including -

 Tripling funding provided by Roads to Recovery

 Return a greater share of fuel excise levies to regional Councils

 Provide councils with low interest regional funding sources

 Combine road asset benchmarks and consolidate regional road planning

 Build up the engineering capability of regional Councils

 Build road networking alliance with the private sector, and

 Reform Government funding programs for local Councils.

While both the Australian and NSW Governments have increased spending on roads in regional NSW, the report found that revenue streams available to local councils are inadequate to maintain existing road infrastructure to a satisfactory standard while budgetary pressures on local councils are also affecting their ability to directly fund road maintenance.

The Australian Government currently collect $15.7 billion per year through the current fuel excise levy at a rate of 39.5 cents per litre for unleaded and diesel fuel purchases. However, in 2015-2016 only 47 per cent (rising to 57 per cent next financial year) of those funds are returned to the road network. According to the report, motorists also pay other taxes and fees which add to the disparity between what they pay to use the road and what is invested back into the road network.

Bland Shire Council General Manager, Ray Smith, has backed the calls for Government funding reform to provide significant increased and fairer funding.

Mr Smith said improved State and Federal roads funding is critical for Bland Shire Council to be able to maintain its road network to an acceptable standard and meet the expectations of the community.