Lismore's dying road network

Esmonde Street in East Lismore is just one of the city’s poorly maintained roads.
Esmonde Street in East Lismore is just one of the city’s poorly maintained roads. David Nielsen

MORE than 40 per cent of roads in Lismore are ‘terminal’ and a further quarter of roads in the area are ‘below acceptable standards’, the council admitted to ratepayers last week.

Appalled by the poor state of council roads, former Lismore chief engineer Bill Moorhouse has challenged the council to explain why increases in maintenance funding have long been below the rate of inflation and are budgeted to continue that way for at least the next two years.

“My concern is what the council does virtually every year is either gives you a zero increase for your real operational areas or a small increase which is always less than CPI,” he said.

“If you stand still with roads you go backwards, and we aren’t even standing still.”

Mr Moorhouse was Lismore’s city chief engineer for 18 years before he retired four years ago.

According to the council’s 2009/10 budget, funding for urban roads only increased by 2.8 pc last financial year and 1.65pc this financial year.

It will get a 1pc boost in 2010 and nothing in 2011.

This is despite inflation running at around 3pc.

The news is worse for rural roads. While rural sealed roads got a funding boost of 3.67pc last financial year, this was reduced to 0.65pc this year with only a 2pc increase promised for the next two years.

Meanwhile unsealed rural roads got no increase last year, but did receive a 4.5pc increase this year.

The Northern Star asked for expenditure figures for the three road types for the past 10 years on Friday but they were not readily available.

During this month’s community consultation meetings over Lismore’s proposed rate increase, council staff have repeatedly denied road funding had fallen behind CPI rises.

Mr Moorhouse said the council’s own budget figures show this is not the case.

He said the lack of funding for maintenance meant more roads were falling into disrepair and becoming ‘terminal’.

Once a road is classifed as terminal it has to be completely pulled up and rebuilt.

He also rejected council’s argument that roads were particularly bad in the Northern Rivers because of high rainfall and poor sub soils.

“There is no substitute for lack of maintenance. If you don’t do it properly to start with and you don’t maintain it, its not going to work, just like your body,” Mr Moorhouse said.

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