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  • Writer's pictureThe Beagle

Road funding: don't be fooled by the fanfare

The NSW Fixing Local Roads program is currently processing applications from Councils across the state in a steady rollout of funding, that comes from state revenue and our taxes. Irrespective of who is in government the NSW Fixing Local Roads program continues on with grants assessed independently on equity and need. The NSW road network is over 180,000 kilometres in length, with approximately 80 per cent classified as ‘Local Roads’. Local councils are currently responsible for maintaining well over 85 per cent of the NSW road network (including Regional and Local Roads).

Councils including Bega and Eurobodalla are able to apply for funding to complete vital works to improve journeys on these local roads which are used by regional communities every day, making journeys for locals, farmers and freight safer, more efficient and more reliable. The intention of the NSW Fixing Local Roads program is promoted as benefiting and stimulating the economy, promoting the social wellbeing of communities

In 2020, the Australian Government committed an additional $191 million to the Fixing Local Roads Program to support economic activity in regional NSW. This increased the total funding for the Program to $691 million. The funding goes towards projects like sealing, resurfacing, road maintenance, drainage improvements and patching. Today's announcement: Nethercote Road, Nethercote will receive $1,432,841

George Bass Drive, Surf Beach will receive $545,880 Sadly the Minister for Regional Transport and Roads, Sam Farraway, used the announcement of two local roads receiving funding to trash talk Labor saying “Under the former Labor Government, our roads went to wrack and ruin, and councils were left to fend for themselves. The NSW Liberal and Nationals Government have built a strong economy so we can continue to invest in the infrastructure that matters, securing a brighter future for NSW". It was a cheap electioneering shot that was needless. Possibly the Minister might well be reminded that his NSW Liberal and National Government has been in place for the past twelve years. Maybe the Minister also forgot that in the lead-up to the 2019 state election Local Government NSW (LGNSW) secured a commitment from the government to take back maintenance of 15,000km of state roads in regional areas. It was to be part of a broader package of support for local councils to better manage and maintain the rural road network.

LGNSW said councils across NSW had been made responsible for maintenance of about 90 percent of the state’s 168,000km of roads which was a “major act of cost-shifting”. In late February 2022, Eurobodalla Council made a submission to the NSW Government’s Regional Road Transfer and Road Classification Review and nominated the transfer and reclassification of numerous roads across the region.

Council submitted to the NSW Government the following proposed changes under the Regional Roads Transfer and Road Reclassification Review. The following road classifications were proposed to be sought under this review: i) All existing regional roads should be retained as Regional Roads with the exception of Beach Road from Corrigans Crescent to George Bass Drive Surf Beach which should be returned to a local road ii) George Bass Drive from Beach Road Batehaven to Beach Road Surf Beach should be reclassified as a Regional Road iii) Glenella Road from the Princes Highway to George Bass Drive should be classified as a Regional Road iv) Tomakin Road from George Bass Drive to the Princes Highway Mogo should be classified as a Regional Road v) Campbell Street and Luck Street Moruya and Araluen Road from Yarragee Road to the border of Eurobodalla LGA at Pigeon Gully should be classified as a Regional Road. Any roads transferred to become a State road would mean that Council would still own the public road reserve but not the physical road infrastructure within the road reserve. This is the typical arrangement in place over most State highways now including the Princes Highway and Kings Highway. Council would still be separately responsible for funding works such as trees (not associated with the road function), weeds and litter away from the road edge. Council would hand over control of the level of maintenance of the asset, which would mean the future intervention levels and actions would be set by Transport for NSW rather than by Council. This would be a similar arrangement to the way intervention levels are set by Transport for NSW for the Princes Highway and Kings Highway. These levels of service will not necessarily be higher than the current service provided by Council. For instance, Council may seek a higher level of presentation to suit our key visitor market than applied by Transport for NSW. Council would still seek to undertake the maintenance and other works on these roads with a view to maintaining the work and the associated local employment. This may be under a similar arrangement to the road maintenance contract Council has with Transport for NSW on the Kings Highway. The NSW Government would take on the depreciation, maintenance and upgrading costs for the roads transferred to State ownership, noting that in many cases this is already substantially funded through the Regional Road Block Grant Agreement and other associated grants.

Adding to this lack of due responsibility around roads the NSW Government is forcing Councils to carry the depreciation cost of assets they neither own nor control, as per claims by Local Government NSW (LGNSW). I wrote about this in The Beagle, 26 July 2022 with the headline ‘State Government tries to pull a swifty on RFS assets’. Council’s concern that the NSW Auditor General … recommends that NSW Council’s should include rural firefighting equipment, that has been vested to them, in their financial statements and depreciate them. The issue is that the State Government says it does not control these assts, so therefore, “by default” they must be controlled by the councils that they are vested in.

Council determined to:

… write to the Auditor General for New South Wales to advocate that the NSW Government acknowledges rural firefighting equipment is controlled by and is the property of the State government and advise that Council’s financial statements have been prepared in accordance with the Australian Accounting Standards, as required by the Local Government Act and such assets will not be recorded in Council’s financial statements. A question asked by one Councillor at the time revealed that if Council takes on responsibility of the asset they would also be taking on over $1 million in depreciation to cover the last two years where they have refused to allow the RFS assets to come on to their books (other than RFS buildings on Council land). Further reading on this: Ownership v control of RFS appliances – an important issue for local government As you can see, sometimes it pays to read between the lines. And we should.


NOTE: Comments were TRIALED - in the end it failed as humans will be humans and it turned into a pile of merde; only contributed to by just a handful who did little to add to the conversation of the issue at hand. Anyone who would like to contribute an opinion are encouraged to send in a Letter to the Editor where it might be considered for publication

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