Transport and infrastructure are significant areas of expenditure for all councils; in 2016-17, councils spent $7.73 billion on transport and communications (ABS).
Local government owners of transport infrastructure face multiple and competing demands on their limited financial resources. Rate payers are often left to fund transport networks for non-ratepayers particularly where local roads provide for significant arterial and through traffic or have economic significance beyond the access interests and responsibilities of the council.
While local roads are primarily funded by councils, and therefore local ratepayers, federal funding is essential for local government to provide the local infrastructure and services the community needs. To assist councils, the Commonwealth Government provides three important programs:
- Roads to Recovery Programme
- Bridges Renewal Programme
- Black Spot Programme
Roads to Recovery Programme (R2R)
Introduced in 2001, the Roads to Recovery Programme (R2R) is essential to help councils address the maintenance backlog on local roads. R2R is a true partnership between the Commonwealth Government and local government. This funding is greatly valued by all councils and their local communities.
The Commonwealth Government will have provided $4.8 billion funding to local councils under R2R in the nine years from the 2013-14 financial year to the 2021-22 financial years.
However, an ALGA study released in 2010 into local road funding estimated that to simply maintain, rather than improve Australia’s local roads up to 2025, an addition $1.2 billion annually is required.
This funding shortfall hinders local and regional social and economic development, and ultimately affects the development and productivity of the nation as a whole.
Without this additional funding, underinvestment in local roads will continue. This funding shortfall hinders local and regional social and economic development, and ultimately affects the development and productivity of the nation as a whole.
ALGA has called for the federal government to increase R2R funding to $800 million per annum.
Bridges Renewal Programme
The 2015 State of the Assets report shows that councils own timber bridges worth $1.71 billion, 22 per cent of which are in poor or very poor condition. ALGA strongly welcomed the much-needed bridge renewal program of $300 million over five years, announced in 2014-15, aimed at helping councils address the very substantial problems affecting local bridges, especially timber bridges.
However, despite the investment since 2014-15, the 2018 State of the Assets report shows little improvement with 21% of timber bridges in poor to very poor condition.
Given the magnitude of the task facing councils to manage this infrastructure, ALGA believes the Commonwealth Government should make the Bridges Renewal Programme permanent to allow greater productivity and safety benefits to be realised.
Black Spot Programme
The Black Spot Programme is part of the federal government’s commitment to reduce crashes on Australian roads. Road crashes are a major cost to Australians every year and Black Spot projects target those locations where crashes are occurring to reduce the risk of crashes. The Commonwealth Government has committed $ 744.5 million to the Black Spot Programme from 2013-14 to 2021-22-with an on-going commitment of $60 million each year following. This program has proved very effective, saving the community many times the cost of the relatively minor road improvements that are implemented.
The Black Spot Programme makes an important contribution in reducing the national road toll under the National Road Safety Strategy and Action Plan.