State government to take back control of many major roads

The NSW Government has committed to take back up to 15,000km of council-managed roads in rural and regional areas because, it says, the move will ease the burden on local ratepayers.

However, Shadow Minister for Rural Roads, Mick Veitch, said it would impact on local jobs and council funding.

He said councils currently received block funding to maintain certain roads, which allowed them to employ locals to undertake the maintenance.

“Information obtained by NSW Labor revealed that more than $192M in funding for roads maintenance was distributed to councils in NSW in 2019/20.

Central Coast Council received $4.3M, the third highest amount of funding in NSW, Veitch said.

A Council spokesperson said they were working with the NSW Government on roads that could be transferred to the State.

“A four-year Road Maintenance Council Contract was entered into in July 2020, therefore Council does not see any impact to local jobs in the short term,” the spokesperson said.

Veitch said workers deserved certainty and called on the government to prioritise giving councils maintenance contracts to ensure that they are not forced to lay off local workers.

“The implementation of this decision by the Liberal and National government should not end in job losses in our regional and rural councils,” he said.

“We are in the midst of a global pandemic and every job is vital, whether it be a barista, trades person or roads maintenance worker.

“The maintenance contracts have already gone to tender in bulk and the Government has refused to guarantee there will be no job losses.

“Councils and their employees throughout rural NSW are justifiably concerned about what will happen next.”

NSW Minister for Regional Transport and Road, Paul Toole, said the reclassification work was a complex process, requiring thorough consultation with a range of stakeholders including councils, the freight industry and local communities.

“An independent panel of experts has been established to oversee the process, drawing on their experience across local and state government, industry and business,” he said.

“The Government understands councils’ funding concerns and has specifically requested the panel consider funding implications of any transfers, including working to ensure local road maintenance jobs are maintained.

“When Labor was last in government they dumped hundreds of millions of dollars of road maintenance costs on councils.

“The Liberals and Nationals in Government are working to right that wrong, and in the process ensuring that we have a safe and effective road network for years to come,” Minister Toole said.

Sue Murray