Independent Federal Member for Indi Helen Haines has backed recommendations for the federal government to review its funding to local government on road maintenance to improve rural roads following natural disasters.
Dr Haines assisted in drafting the report as a member of the Standing Committee on Regional Development, Infrastructure and Transport.
The Report follows a 12-month inquiry into the significant challenges of maintaining Australia’s regional, rural and remote road network in the face of severe weather events, and how to improve road resilience for future natural disasters.
“Rural and regional people deserve to drive on safe, well-maintained roads and we need adequate funding so that local roads can be built to withstand future weather events,” Dr Haines said.
The Committee travelled across the country to hear from local governments, engineers, emergency management organisations, climate scientists and weather experts, including holding a hearing in Wodonga.
“I brought the Committee to our region to ensure our voices and perspectives were heard directly, and the committee found the evidence provided by Indi’s councils incredibly compelling,” Dr Haines said.
“The final recommendations reflect what the Committee heard time and again from local councils: current funding arrangements only cover the damage caused by natural disasters; they don’t allow communities to build back better.”
The Report recommends:
- consultation with local governments to consider road infrastructure priorities at the local level;
- reviews of the Financial Assistance Grants for roads funding, and funding for road maintenance works under the Infrastructure Investment Program; and
- greater flexibility for betterment funding for resilient infrastructure builders through Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements following natural disasters.
“This Report provides sound and practical recommendations to help regional communities to build climate resilient roads and bridges. The Federal Government must implement these recommendations in full,” Dr Haines said.
Indi local councils made submissions to the inquiry and gave evidence at the Committee hearing in Wodonga on July 17, including the City of Wodonga, Rural City of Wangaratta, Murrindindi Shire, Strathbogie Shire, Mansfield Shire, Towong Shire, Indigo Shire and Benalla Rural City.
“With more than 75 per cent of Australia’s road network owned and maintained by local governments, it is important that local people have a say in the planning of how we can build back better following natural disasters.”
“Local councils in Indi and across regional Australia are really struggling to fix roads following flood and landslide events. There are multiple factors that impact regional councils: small ratepayer bases, extreme inflation impacting the cost of materials, and minimal funding opportunities for state and Commonwealth government support. The combination of these factors makes it almost impossible to maintain roads and bridges for regional communities,” Dr Haines said.
“I am proud to have been a member of this Committee and thank everyone who made a submission and appeared as a witness before the inquiry; local knowledge and experience is powerful and important evidence. It’s encouraging to see the Committee’s Report reflecting the voices of regional communities.”
The full report can be found here.