Central West councils are falling short of funds and they need at least $156 million to maintain local roads to a safe and satisfactory standard.
That’s according to the NRMA’s latest Funding Local Roads report.
It says the funding backlog, which is the gap between what councils spent and what they earmarked as necessary in order to keep the roads to safe standards, has been growing for the past three years.
The infrastructure funding deficit was $156.3 million in 2016-17 – an increase of 42.2 per cent on 2015-16.
The NRMA said Bathurst, Orange and Mid-Western councils had the biggest infrastructure backlogs at $51.7 million, $26.9 million and $24.4 million respectively.
They were followed by Blayney ($11.1m), Dubbo ($9.8m), Narromine ($5.3m), Forbes ($3.8m), Parkes ($3m) and Cowra ($1.1m) councils in the region.
Bathurst mayor Graeme Hanger said Bathurst council covers an area of almost 4000 square kilometres and its road network includes 800 km of sealed road and 400 km of unsealed roads.
“This financial year council has budgeted $8.9 million for major capital roadwork projects to maintain and improve our existing road structure,” Cr Hanger said.
“At the end of the 2017-18 financial year council had more than 90 per cent of the urban road network at a condition index of three or above [based on an assessment scale of one to five].”
Cr Hanger said council actively seeks grant funding from the NSW and Federal governments each year to undertake extra road works in a bid to address the backlog.
Orange mayor Reg Kidd said this is a problem for all councils.
“We welcome the NRMA report for helping to demonstrate how much more funding is needed and how local councils shoulder the burden of maintaining local roads,” Cr Kidd said.
“The Federal Government is collecting a lot of money through its 43 cents a litre fuel excise and it would be great if at least half of that was put back into road infrastructure.
“Orange City Council routinely lobbies all tiers of government to boost roads funding and writes submissions for local projects when key finding programs come up.”
Cr Kidd said Orange council has a system that allows it to prioritise roads that need maintenance.
“We have an industry-standard system of monitoring the condition of all our assets, including major buildings, infrastructure and roads,” Cr Kidd said.
“This lets us keep tabs on how much money we need to spend on roads maintenance.
“There are always limited funds, so this system then helps us work out which roads should take a priority and map out a budget for future years.”
NRMA spokesman Peter Khoury said many Central West councils have a significant infrastructure funding backlog.
“We know that there are councils which are struggling with revenue streams and it is very difficult for them to find the funding they need to maintain the backlog,” Mr Khoury said.
“The other reason could be the large geographic area, which means councils have a large road network to maintain.”
Of the total $2.2 billion funding shortfall in the state, $1.7 billion alone belonged to regional councils. This is because 80 per cent of the 84,859 kilometre road network across NSW is managed by local councils.
Mr Khoury said councils can’t do maintenance from their own funds and depend on funding from the NSW and Federal governments.
“The money they [councils] receive is not enough,” he said.
“We recommend that councils should get more money from the Snowy Hydro Legacy and Regional Growth funds.
“The Federal Government can reserve between two and five cents per litre of the fuel excise for local roads and also the NSW Government should re-categorise strategic roads across regional areas to state roads.”
Mr Khoury said re-categorising roads will open more revenue sources for the maintenance of these roads.