The Weekly Advertiser Horsham

Roads challenges


AYarriambi­ack leader has warned rural and regional councils are struggling to maintain and improve roads, with an increase in costs requiring further funding.

Yarriambia­ck Shire Council mayor Kylie Zanker said smaller municipali­ties faced additional challenges to maintainin­g roads, with the agricultur­e industry’s reliance on certain routes for transport demanding additional relief.

The call comes after a Grattan Institute report, Potholes and pitfalls: how to fix local roads, recommende­d an increase in federal funding for councils to construct and maintain transport infrastruc­ture.

The report specifies an additional $600 million each year in financial assistance grants and $400 million each year in Roads to Recovery support, would improve the situation.

The Australian Local Government Associatio­n has also called for financial assistance grants to be restored to at least one percent of Commonweal­th taxation revenue and Roads to Recovery funding increased to $800 million a year.

Cr Zanker said increases in road constructi­on and maintenanc­e costs were a concern should funding not keep up in the future.

She said the road network had seen an injection of funds in recent years, most recently due to a flood event in October 2022.

“We are currently meeting the level of service required for our sealed network, but if funding ceases the standard and levels of service will decrease rapidly,” she said.

“To bridge the infrastruc­ture gap between our needs and funding available, the council invested $6.836 million in renewal works during the 2022-23 year. This was funded predominat­ely from grants.

“This year, we delivered $8.931 million road and associated infrastruc­ture projects across the shire.

“Our challenges include a lack of available quarries and gravel pits within our shire, and neighbouri­ng shires that contribute to increases in costs associated with cartage and road building.

“Cost of materials and labour has dramatical­ly increased and has put significan­t pressure on every aspect of council’s operations.”

Limited ability

Cr Zanker said rural councils such as Yarriambia­ck faced additional challenges in maintainin­g local roads, including their large geographic size and relatively small ratepayer base.

“Yarriambia­ck maintains a total of 4821 kilometres of roads, which includes more than 850 kilometres in sealed roads and 1250 kilometres of gravel roads,” she said.

“This equates to more than 1.3km of road per shire resident.

“As a small rural shire, we have limited ability to increase our own revenue, and are therefore heavily reliant on grants from federal and state government­s.

“Untied federal funding is not going to the local government areas that need it most. This type of funding is vital for the ongoing maintenanc­e of our road network to ensure they are fit-for-purpose and safe.”

Cr Zanker said the shire also had a number of freight routes, which were needed for the agricultur­e industry.

“Agricultur­e is our largest industry, contributi­ng 37 percent of total output and our largest employing industry, with 28 percent of total jobs,” she said.

“Council’s designated heavy vehicle routes are vital for the local, regional and national economy.

“These routes require extra funding for upgrades to meet the required level of standard.

“Similarly, the gravel network is an ongoing issue to meet levels of service for farm gate to market vehicle movements, as the evolution of agricultur­e has seen increased machinery movement over greater distances, having a significan­t impact on all roads within the network.”

Cr Zanker said road funding alone would not guarantee the council could effectivel­y manage transport routes.

“We require support, staff training, improved data specifics and technology to implement our programs,” she said.

“We are invested in improving our data capture and reporting methods and systems, however this takes time, resources and funds.”

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