Local Government NSW (LGNSW) has urged the State Government to keep a key election commitment to take back 15,000 kilometres of regional roads from NSW councils, with documents suggesting the transfer may be at risk because of a lack of funding.
LGNSW President Linda Scott said Transport for NSW (TfNSW) asset management papers suggested the Government did not have the money to cover the transfer of the roads.
“LGNSW has worked hard on behalf of councils across the State to reduce and ultimately end cost shifting, so we were pleased when the Government committed to taking back 15,000 kilometres of council-managed roads at the last election,” Cr Scott said.
“These roads represent a massive administrative and financial burden to local councils and is a key component in cost shifting, where State and Federal Government force councils to assume responsibility for infrastructure and services without sufficient funding support.
“In 2018/19 alone, around $820 million was cost shifted to NSW councils, part of a burden estimated at $6.2 billion over 10 years.”
Cr Scott said the State Government’s $1 billion pledge to fix NSW roads and bridges and promise to take back 15,000 kilometres of roads at the last election was hard fought for by LGNSW and universally praised by NSW councils because it promised to lift a major financial burden.
“As recently as January the Government appeared to be progressing its promise with the appointment of an expert panel to begin identifying roads that would be handed back to State Government,” she said.
“But this TfNSW document says it is almost certain the funding is currently not available to transfer ownership of the roads.”
Cr Scott said at this stage there was no confirmation the Government was considering going back on its promise, but the fact it has yet to be budgeted for was disheartening for councils that were battling through an unprecedented series of major disasters.
“Drought, bushfires and now the impacts of COVID 19 have devastated rural and regional councils across the State,” she said.
“The hope of finally being free from the cost-shifting arrangement of road management was a bright spot on the financial horizon.
“It is absolutely vital the NSW Government sticks to this commitment and we will be seeking assurances that they will follow through with their promise.”