21 August 2011, news, Canberra Times photo by STUART WALMSLEY. People from all over Australia converge on Canberra for a Convoy of No Confidence in the Federal Government. Truck owner-driver Peter Whytcross leads a convoy of vehicles from Western Australia across the ACT/NSW border on the Barton Highway. Mr Whytcross has covered 5800km over six days between Port Hedland and Canberra. SPECIAL 1NSW regional councils face a multi-million dollar backlog to upgrading critical road infrastructure, according to the NRMA.
In its latest Funding Local Roads report, the motoring organisation revealed the infrastructure backlog across the state has increased from $1.73 billion in 2014-15 to $1.96 billion, an increase of 13 per cent.
While the infrastructure backlog for all regional councils in NSW combined fell from $32.1 million to $11.2 million, several councils in the Snowy Mountain region recorded an increase.
The Snowy River Council registered a 141 per cent increase during the 12-month period, rising from $9.29 million to $22.41 million.
Bombala Council’s backlog for 2015-16 was $5.28 million, up from $5.08 million.
The data recorded by the NRMA took place before many councils in the region were amalgamated.
The former Queanbeyan Council’s backlog bill more than quadrupled from $660,000 to just more than $3.5 million, while the previous Palerang Council jumped from $6.8 million to $7.2 million.
Cooma-Monaro as well as Goulburn Council were the only councils surrounding the ACT that registered a drop in infrastructure backlog, coming in with a 0.5 per cent and 5.9 per cent drop respectively.
According to the report, 80 per cent of Australian roads are maintained by local councils, with the council backlog potentially leading to more crashes.
“The deterioration in the condition of local council roads assets has resulted in the reduced condition of the road network, impacting the day-to-day movements of motorists, especially in regional areas,” the report said.
“Roads will become less safe to drive on, with the unintended consequence of more crashes on the local road network.”
A similar infrastructure backlog is also taking place in the ACT, with the NRMA highlighting a report released earlier this year by the auditor-general stating the cost to upgrade Canberra roads was expected to increase to $71 million by 2019-20.
The backlog in the territory has grown by more than 400 per cent since 2010-11.
NRMA local director Kate Lundy said the increase in backlog was often due to only one road being able to be upgraded at a time due to funding constraints.
“Invariably it is a cycle, and as one priority is fixed, another emerges,” she said.
“One example is the Barton Highway duplication, which will cost a lot of money and when it’s done, there are other things that won’t be funded due to that being one large expense.”
Ms Lundy said the federal government should invest a greater proportion from money raised from the fuel excise levy to local roads as a way to clear the backlog.
“That change will start to address the shortfall, and it’s a huge shortfall,” she said.
“Without a change in approach, we’re really just cycling through band-aid solutions with regards to road safety.”
Other recommendations from the NRMA include fast tracking funding for the federal government’s Roads to Recovery program and establish Road Stewardship Maintenance contracts to improve the delivery of road infrastructure.