One year on, transfer of road costs hangs in balance
IT'S BEEN nearly a year since the state government promised more than $1 billion towards helping NSW councils manage roads by reclaiming up to 15,000 kilometres of regional roads.
An advocate for seeing this "lengthy and complex promise" from NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro and Minister for Roads, Maritime and Freight Melinda Pavey come into fruition is Lismore MP Janelle Saffin.
She said it was the main issue brought up while visiting local councils with NSW Shadow Minister for Local Government Greg Warren MP.
Ms Saffin said Lismore City, Kyogle, Tweed Shire and Tenterfield Shire councils craved more detail on how the NSW Government would take back financial responsibility for the maintenance of regional roads.
"I wrote to NSW Minister for Regional Transport and Roads Paul Toole last October asking when his independent expert panel would be appointed and how councils will have to justify priority roads under new arrangements," she said.
In the correspondence, she outlined the importance of Transport for NSW to contract such work back to the respective councils to safeguard local jobs and keep local economies strong.
She said all councils were seeking assurances from the NSW Government "on its ongoing commitment to funding for the maintenance and upkeep of these roads once they are transferred back to the State."
"These roads are really costly for local councils for the upkeep," Ms Saffin said.
"The cost-shifting from State Government onto local councils - which means us, the ratepayers - is in the hundreds of millions of dollars - up towards a billion dollars.
"It's important that these things are dealt with more quickly."
In reply, on January 13, Minister Toole wrote: "This is a complex process and a transition of this scale will take time to complete."
"The process will be overseen by an independent expert panel, to be announced shortly," he wrote.
Ms Saffin said the most concerning thing was there wasn't a timeframe from the minister.
On his visit to Lismore on Tuesday, Mr Warren urged the government to be "clear, transparent and honest" with the community, provide them with certainty, job security and clarify what they will be doing with those roads.
Kyogle Mayor Danielle Mulholland said the issue was a major and ongoing issue of concern for the LGA.
"For the benefit of the communities we serve, we strongly urge the NSW Government to act on this election promise as soon as possible, establish the panel and engage with local councils to identify their priority roads to hand back," she said.