Councils are calling on the NSW government to deliver on a promise it made in the last state election to take back 15,000 kilometres of roads from councils.
Local Government NSW (LGNSW) President, Linda Scott said this week’s Upper Hunter by-election was the perfect opportunity to call for the “long overdue” action, which she says would bring much-needed relief for council road maintenance budgets.
LGNSW had written to all candidates in the leadup to the by-election seeking their support for the transfer.
“Councils have been made responsible for around 90 per cent of the State’s 168,000 kilometres of roads, which is a major act of cost shifting,” Cr Scott said.
“This and other cost shifting represents an estimated $850 million burden to councils and their ratepayers each year,” she said.
“This is why we were over the moon when we were able to secure a commitment from Government in the leadup to the 2019 election that they would take back 15,000 kilometres of NSW roads following LGNSW advocacy.
“What followed after the election was an extensive review of which roads the Government should take back, with councils across NSW applying for roads in their LGAs to be considered.”
She said an independent Government panel had now reviewed all the applications and made its recommendations.
“Unfortunately the Minister for Regional Transport and Roads, Paul Toole, has had this report on his desk for a long time now and has not indicated when or if he will release this report publicly,” said Cr Scott.
“It is well past time for the Government to make this report public, start consulting with councils and act on it.”
Cr Scott said it was critical that no council be left worse off at the conclusion of the consultation and takeback process.
“What concerns me is the possibility that the State Government’s council road maintenance funding would be cut as part of the takeback process,” she said.
“That would be incredibly unfair given the massive cost burden councils carry and how much they rely on support funding from the State and Federal governments.
“It is not only critical that the Government release the roads being earmarked for takeback, but also commit to fund the transfer process and that no council will be financially worse off.
“The Government should commit to ensuring councils continue to be awarded the repair and maintenance contracts for the roads that are handed back to support local jobs.
“Local government is the best level of government to provide a locally-led economic recovery for their communities. State and Federal partnership funding for councils is the absolute best way of driving dollars further and creating all important jobs.
“It is vital that is not put at risk by any change in road maintenance funding.”