Budget 2021-2022: rural roads to be upgraded this year

Horsham Rural City Council is spending more money on rural roads than ever before in its 2021-2020 Draft Budget.

HRCC proposes to allocate $7.3 million on rural roads and bridges, which is a 27 per increase compared to last year.

Chief Executive Officer Sunil Bhalla said maintaining rural roads was a monumental challenge facing regional councils across Australia.

It’s particularly tough in the Wimmera where reactive subsoils mean roads tend to deteriorate quicker.

Adding to the strain is the growing prevalence of B double trucks and other heavy vehicle traffic as well as the increasing dimensions of contemporary farm machinery.

“We know we need to keep improving our roads. It is a huge focus for the team – both in terms of budget and resources,” Mr Bhalla said.

The reconstruction of sections of Polkemmet Road ($692,000) and the Horsham Lubeck Road ($780,000) are two of the largest projects included in the draft Budget.

The Dimboola Minyip Road at Murra Warra ($338,000) will undergo further major upgrades due to its importance as a freight route.

Across the municipality more than $1 million will be spent on seals and re-seals as required. $900,000 has been allocated for re-sheeting gravel roads, which is a major increase on previous years, while shoulder works, heavy patching and bridge maintenance have also been budgeted for.

HRCC is also piloting the use of Otta Seals to transform high-maintenance gravel roads into cost-efficient sealed roads where traffic volumes are moderate.

Mr Bhalla said that from the pool of ratepayer money being spent on infrastructure, 48.8 per cent was being directed at rural roads.

“Council has an ongoing commitment to fixing the rural road network, investing the largest budget to date into improving local roads,” he said.

“They are integral to the economic output of the region from our farming operations and related businesses.

“The road program is weather and seasonal dependent. As such works will be carried out over the year,” Mr Bhalla said.

Money to fix rural roads comes from a combination of HRCC revenue (64 per cent) and funding through the Federal and State Governments.

Council continues to advocate to higher levels of government for extra support, including for roads that are under the management of Regional Roads Victoria such as the Horsham Noradjuha Road, Blue Ribbon Road, the Horsham Minyip Road, Northern Grampians Road, Natimuk Hamilton Road and the Western, Wimmera and Henty Highways.

People can make a submission about the Draft 2021-2022 Budget until Monday 7 June at 5pm.

For longer-term planning, Council is developing a Rural Road Network Plan. A community steering committee consisting of representatives from across the municipality has been formed with a series of information sessions having been held this week.

Further opportunity for input to this plan will be provided in the weeks ahead, based on the initial feedback from these community sessions.

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