Federal funding to local governments for roads construction and maintenance is failing to keep up with soaring costs, new research from the Grattan Institute has shown.
The data, presented by the Institute’s Natasha Bradshaw at ALGA’s 2023 National Local Roads, Transport and Infrastructure Congress in Canberra today, showed that Federal Financial Assistance Grants haven’t kept pace with road construction and maintenance costs for the last two decades.
ALGA President, City of Sydney Councillor, Linda Scott said councils were responsible for the management of around 75% of the nation’s road network by length, yet collect less than 4% of national taxation.
“Soaring construction costs are also eroding the buying power of Roads to Recovery funding, which is not indexed to account for inflation, meaning councils are constrained in the roads they can fix and maintain,” said President Scott.
“The Grattan Institute’s preliminary findings also confirm regional, rural and remote councils face additional and sometimes insurmountable difficulties, due to smaller ratepayer bases, larger geographical areas, and less staff.
“In fact, the cost per person to maintain sealed roads is up to five times higher in regional and remote communities compared to metropolitan areas.”
Ms Bradshaw’s keynote presentation was followed by a panel discussion which also included ALGA Vice President and Gladstone Mayor, Matt Burnett and IPWEA NSW and ACT CEO and former NSW Transport Minister, David Elliott, which covered the issues of road funding, congestion and natural disasters.
“We look forward to the official release of the Grattan Institute’s findings and recommendations later this year, and ALGA will continue to advocate for the funding we need to deliver and maintain safer local roads for our communities,” said President Scott.
“Increasing Financial Assistance Grants to at least one percent of Commonwealth taxation revenue is vital to enable all councils to maintain our local roads to a better, more resilient standard.“
ALGA also want to see the Australian Government’s Roads to Recovery funding increased from $500 million to $800 million per year, and indexed annually to keep pace with rising costs.
“ALGA’s recent analysis estimated the cost of flood-damaged roads in Queensland, NSW, Victoria and South Australia is in the vicinity of $3.8 billion, so we need urgent support from all levels of Government to fix these roads as soon as possible and help us build them back better,” President Scott said.