Councils fall short on funding

AS THE pressure continues to build on the Federal and State governments to commit to dual carriageway upgrades on the Pacific Highway, it seems local roads too require significant capital expenditure.

The Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) has released the findings of an independent study into the funding needs of the nation's roads which estimates that an additional $1.2 billion will need to be spent each year just to maintain the current standard of local thoroughfares.

The 565 councils across the country manage 650,000 kilometres of local roads, which represent more than 80 per cent of the entire Australian road network.

The study examines a sample of 158 councils across the country and calculates the rate of annual under-expenditure by all councils is $860 million.

This will blow out to $1.2 billion if current expenditure settings are not improved.

“The Australian community is being dudded by successive State and Federal governments who are happy to throw billions of dollars at new toll roads and national highways but who are not prepared to properly fund the basic local road infrastructure which connects every Australian to home, work, schools, farms, markets and tourist destinations,” ALGA president Cr Geoff Lake said.

“If the Government is serious about focusing on regional and rural Australia, there is no better way to do that than by improving local road infrastructure.

“Speak to any country mayor and they will tell you that every dollar spent on upgrading roads leads to more than a three-fold dividend to the local economy through increased productivity.”

The study also finds that while councils have increased rate revenues to meet funding shortfalls, the pressures on councils in other service areas means there is simply not enough available from the local rate-base for roads.

“What this study makes crystal clear is that the magnitude of funding local roads is now well beyond cash-strapped and resource-constrained councils and a dramatic increase in Commonwealth investment is desperately needed,” Cr Lake said.

“Federal funding for local roads is woefully inadequate and even on the most generous interpretation represents only about a third of total local road expenditure.

“Boosting local road funding will also offer significant advantages to remote indigenous communities who regularly suffer dislocation from their neighbouring communities and towns because of inadequate roads being shut because of relatively minor rainfall – sometimes for months of the year.”

The full report is available on the ALGA website at http://www.alga.asn.au under Recent Updates.



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