Local, Independant and Effective

Councils in Indi rely heavily on Roads to Recovery funding

Posted March 21, 2014


Hansard copy of Roads to Recovery speech, March 20, 2014

Today I rise to speak in support of the Land Transport Infrastructure Amendment Bill 2014.

I want to commend the government on this bill, which, among other things, enables the continuation of the Roads to Recovery program, which provides vital funding to local governments for the maintenance of the nation's local road infrastructure beyond 30 June 2014.

I would like to add my support to the comments from the member for Leichhardt. Whilst not the topic of my speech today, I also want to commend the government for committing $300 million to finalise plans, engineering designs and environmental assessments for the Melbourne to Brisbane inland rail freight project. But more about that at another time.

The Roads to Recovery program is an example of good policy. It is being implemented as it was intended to be and makes a real difference to roads throughout our community. I look forward to seeing funding for this program in the next budget.

There are eight councils in Indi, and the following section of my speech will outline how each of them has used and plans to use the Roads to Recovery funding. Every one of them has reported to me with a long list of success stories in my local council areas.

I will begin with Alpine Shire. The council has received $2,806,434 from the Roads to Recovery program since 2009. Alpine Shire takes in the major and beautiful towns of Bright, Mount Beauty and Myrtleford and has 630 kilometres of road, of which 395 kilometres are sealed.

Alpine Shire is planning for 2014-15 and has an extensive list of priorities for future Roads to Recovery funding, including conducting renewal works for ageing roads and bridge infrastructure, resealing and resheeting roads, replacing bridges, rehabilitating existing sealed roads, replacing kerbs and sealing unsafe, gravel roads.

These works will be done in conjunction with $1.5 billion of funding from the Victorian state government. This list of projects is only a start and, needless to say, the Alpine Shire is waiting in anticipation for future funding. Alpine Shire has the requisite funds to match anticipated Roads to Recovery funding and I believe this shows how important this program is for the shire and how committed they are to begin the program.

I would like to draw your attention to the fact that Alpine Shire surrounds some of Victoria's most major ski resorts—for your information: Mount Hotham, Falls Creek and the snowfields at Dinner Plain and Mount Buffalo. Roads to Recovery funding in this area not only benefits us locals but also the thousands of tourists travelling to the snowfields each year. Safe roads, as we have heard today, are essential for all industries in Indi, particularly tourism.

I now turn to Murrindindi Shire. On the outskirts of Melbourne, Murrindindi Shire boasts impressive national parks and state forests and is home to a number of small towns including Kinglake, Yarck, Yea and Toolangi, to name a few. Like many rural councils, the Murrindindi Shire Council faces significant financial challenges when planning to address the demands of its existing and growing asset base.

Infrastructure funding from grants through the Roads to Recovery program allows Murrindindi Shire to undertake works that it would be totally and utterly unable to fund alone. A Murrindindi staff member told my office: 'The R2R funding is critical to undertaking maintenance and renewal for our road networks.' Murrindindi council has responsibility for a very extensive road network. For the information of this House, that network includes 489 kilometres of sealed road, 749 kilometres of unsealed road and the massive number of 244 bridges.

The scale of Murrindindi council's asset renewal obligations is significant, and ongoing support is critical. Priorities for Roads to Recovery funding for the council in 2014-15 have focused on the unsealed road network, which is 749 kilometres. Over the past four years Roads to Recovery funding has enabled council to undertake road rehabilitation on approximately 120 kilometres of the unsealed road network.

Clearly, without this funding council would not have been able to undertake this very important work. Murrindindi Shire Council provides an important example of how councils with relatively small populations in Yea, Alexandra, Kinglake and Marysville, spread over a very large area, struggle to finance the maintenance of infrastructure in their communities. Roads to Recovery enables local councils  to keep up with infrastructure maintenance demands.

In the north of my electorate, Towong Shire Council has similar challenges to Murrindindi in that it has a small population base and a very large network of roads. Covering 6,500 square kilometres, Towong has many towns and villages which are connected by a network of 392 kilometres of sealed roads and 556 kilometres of unsealed roads. For 2014-15, Towong intends to seal 1.4 kilometres of unsealed road at a cost of $250,000 and to reseal 23.5 kilometres at a cost of $840,000—so still a long way to go.

My own local government area, Indigo Shire, takes in the beautiful towns of Rutherglen, Chiltern, Yackandandah and Beechworth. The council has 1,400 kilometres of roads, of which 430 kilometres are sealed. Major priorities for Indigo Shire in the coming year are the Up River Road, the Gooramadda Road and the Gundowring Road. These projects will include resealing, repairing the pavement base, improving the shoulders of the roads and work on some intersections of those roads. Indigo Shire expects to spend a total of $2 million next year completing these projects: $1 million will be state funding and the remaining $1 million will be mix of council funding and Roads to Recovery.

In Mansfield Shire, Roads to Recovery funding is used to top up the renewal gap in road maintenance. Without this funding, a source in Mansfield said: 'We would be going backwards. In fact, it would be great the amount of funding we received could be doubled!' One-sixth of the council's capital works budget comes from Roads to Recovery. As a council with a very small rate base, they are highly reliant on R2R funding. A priority in the immediate future is to fix the heavy haulage route which is the town bypass for trucks and carries timber, gravel and stock as well as tourists.

As an aside, can I say that the issue of road safety for heavy haulage is particularly important as Indi is home to several essential road links between Victoria and News South Wales, including a long stretch of the Hume Highway. In Australia, about 50 per cent of the freight carried will travel by road at some point. Furthermore, the transportation of food mainly occurs by road in Australia. A safe and modern road network is essential for the economy.

In contrast to Murrindindi, Towong, Benalla and Indigo shires, Wodonga has a large population but a much smaller network of roads, with a total of 557 kilometres, of which 413 kilometres are sealed and 144 kilometres are unsealed. Nevertheless, their funding needs are just as pressing and they also are keenly anticipating future Roads to Recovery funding. In 2014-15 they will spend $1.2 million on new roads and $1.7 million renewing existing roads.

Wodonga's increasing population and development of new suburbs means that their road network is constantly expanding. In a city such as Wodonga, where most residents rely on their cars to get around, the need for roads to be safe and reliable is essential. With an average grant of $430,000 per annum to Wodonga, Roads to Recovery is an essential source of funding for this significant rural centre.

In Benalla, the Roads To Recovery priorities are based on improving the safety of their roads, especially black spots where there have been fatalities but not enough deaths to actually qualify for black spot funding. This has already been mentioned in this House. Roads to Recovery funding is saving lives and has enabled Benalla to respond to deadly roads in the region. Future funding will ensure that the program can continue to do so. I commend the government for amending the bill in order to increase the focus on black spots.

In drawing my speech to a close, I would like to finish with a quote from a staff member at Wangaratta council: 'I don't know what council would do without this funding. We use it widely, and we get excellent value from it.' The staff member put it so well. This program is well targeted, it is responding to a common need across Australia and it is providing funding in a responsible way by mandating that the funds be matched in order to make the most of every single dollar.

In conclusion, I am pleased to support this bill. Roads to Recovery is a program that increases safety, helps the economy to grow and ensures that our rural and regional communities are vibrant for the future. I commend the government for establishing a legislative framework for the future of Roads to Recovery, and I look forward to seeing the improvements that future funding will bring.

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