State works through ‘complex process’ of taking back local roads

Parliamentary Secretary for the Central Coast, Adam Crouch, with Roads Minister Paul Toole at Central Coast Hwy; which roads will join it in becoming State roads?

Parliamentary Secretary for the Central Coast, Adam Crouch, has accused NSW Labor of scaremongering over claims that State Government plans to take back 15,000km of rural roads throughout the state could impact local jobs and council funding.

Shadow Minister for Rural roads, Mick Veitch, said councils currently receive block funding to maintain certain roads, which allows them to employ locals to undertake the maintenance.

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

Central Coast Council received $4.3M, he said.

Veitch said workers deserved certainty and called on the government to prioritise giving councils maintenance contracts to ensure 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 – whether it be a barista, trades person or roads maintenance worker – is vital.

“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.”

The NSW Government has committed to reclassify 15,000 kilometres of regional roads to take the burden off councils.

But Crouch said the reclassification work is a complex process, requiring thorough consultation with a range of stakeholders including councils, the freight industry and local communities.

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

“The Government has specifically requested the panel consider funding implications of any transfers, including working to ensure local road maintenance jobs continue.”

A spokesperson for Central Coast Council said the Council was 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.

Terry Collins