THE National Roads and Motorists’ Association (NRMA) has released a report highlighting a $1.15 billion funding backlog needed to bring NSW North Coast council roads up to a ‘satisfactory condition’, with Greater Taree City Council topping the list.
As a result, the NRMA is renewing calls for the Australian Government to return half of the fuel excise to fix roads.
The definition of ‘satisfactory condition’ is council’s estimated cost to bring the road to an acceptable standard, but does not include any planned enhancements to existing roads.
The NRMA report, Funding Local Roads, used figures submitted by 20 North Coast councils to the NSW Government as part of their annual reporting obligations that summarised the money needed to fix local roads.
Despite having nine councils covering the North Coast, the region had the biggest backlog in NSW.
North Coast councils requiring the most money to bring their local roads up to a satisfactory condition were:
- Greater Taree – $260.1 million
- Port Macquarie Hastings – $187.8 million
- Clarence Valley – $167.9 million
- Byron Shire – $104.2 million
- Coffs Harbour City – $66.8 million
NRMA president Wendy Machin said some local councils would take years to clear their backlog of roadworks at current funding levels.
“It’s not their fault either as the money they’re requesting isn’t for glitz and glamour – it’s for the basics including fixing pot holes, repainting faded lines and gutters,” Ms Machin said.
“The Pacific Highway has had billions thrown at it over the past decade to get it up to an acceptable standard.
“The NRMA believes local councils deserve an increased funding commitment so that when drivers come off the Pacific Highway into North Coast towns, they’re driving on similar quality roads.
“Fixing local roads also benefits the community as the cost of crashes to the NSW economy amounts to $2 billion each year.”
Funding Local Roads explores options to help clear the $4 billion needed to bring local council roads up to a satisfactory condition.
These include a greater return to councils from the Australian Government’s fuel excise tax, increasing the NSW Government’s Local Infrastructure Backlog Fund and lower interest lending to councils.
Currently, $15 billion is collected by the Australian Government for all road users, from the fuel excise levy at a rate of 38.143 cents per litre for unleaded and diesel fuel purchases.
Only 10 cents out of 38.143 cents collected from Australian motorists is returned to the road network.
Ms Machin said annual Australian Government investment in the NSW road network has varied between $3.6 billion and $6.2 billion over the past six years but more was needed.
“We are calling on the Australian Government to return at least half of the fuel excise tax collected into road funding and for a pre-determined allocation to go directly to local councils to help ease the $4 billion black hole that NSW councils are facing,” Ms Machin said.
Another option to assist local government in maintaining their roads is to give them a larger percentage of the revenue generated from roads taxes.
Local government currently receives 3.3 per cent of the roads taxes, yet this level of government looks after 85 per cent of the country’s roads.
A recent breakdown by Regional Development Australia of the NSW State budget, also leaves much to be desired for the Manning Valley.
In short, Coffs Harbour received $74,000,000, Nambucca/Bellingen received $359,100,000, Kempsey received $305,843,000, Port Macquarie received $213,297,000 and the Manning Valley received $0.
Despite ongoing calls from the community for Greater Taree City Council to spend more money on roads, most people would be unaware that council currently spends 40 per cent of their budget on roads and infrastructure, leaving just 60 per cent to cover all other services that are needed and expected by the community.
There should be no doubt that further assistance is needed in order to get local roads and infrastructure up to scratch and the current rates received by council simply do not come close.
Over the last five years there has been two special rate variations but Greater Taree City Council continues to generate a significantly lower income from these rates, as opposed to the other councils of their size.