Roads to ruin
FUNDING for unsealed roads in the Lismore local government area has fallen by 41 per cent since 2002/03, once expenditure figures are adjusted for inflation, a report to the council has revealed.
Cr David Tomlinson, who chairs the council's infrastructure asset policy advisory group (PAG) was scathing of the cuts when he presented the report at his final council meting.
“In the last year alone, council's (total) road spending rose by a token two per cent, compared with a rise in road construction costs in excess of seven per cent and a rise in rate income of 3.4 per cent,” he said.
“This is despite constant recommendations by PAG that council maintain its roads spending in real terms.
“This sort of neglect has been going on for many years and the evidence is there for everyone to see. Potholes, crumbling road surfaces and dangerous narrow roads unable to cope with rising traffic levels.”
Cr Tomlinson said the council had been funding new infrastructure assets by allowing existing infrastructure to deteriorate and the practice had to end.
“Extra rate income is channelled into highly expensive and dubious infrastructure such as swimming pools and recreation centres at the expense of existing roads, parks, drains and buildings,” he said.
The report showed that 407 kilometres of roads, or 38 per cent of Lismore's total, were unsealed and that funding in 2002/03 was $1,066,000, compared with $963,000 in 2008/09.
“This translates into fewer grades and less resheeting,” Cr Tomlinson said.
“This would have to be regarded as an unacceptable outcome for the ratepayers who live on and travel these roads.”
The report also points out that resident surveys have consistently shown that roads are considered to be the most important service the council provides and that the vast majority of residents want more money spent on them.
“In the most recent survey, carried out in 2007, 83 per cent of residents said they wanted more money spent on roads,” Cr Tomlinson said. “But, as we have seen, each year council spends less in real terms.”