MINISTER for Regional Transport and Roads Sam Farraway has been forced to admit that not one single kilometre of a promised 15,000 kilometres of regional roads has been transferred from local councils to State ownership.
Under questioning by John Graham MLC during a recent Budget Estimates hearing, Minister Farraway could not bring himself to say the words “it is zero”, despite it being clear that zero roads have been transferred under the program.
The Minister dashed the hopes of regional motorists and cash-strapped regional councils that the glacial roll-out of the program would be sped up, saying the Government’s key 2019 election commitment is “not a burning topic” amongst regional councils.
The Minister also cast doubt on whether the full complement of 15,000 kilometres promised would be transferred, repeatedly stating that the policy was “up to” 15,000 kilometres.
Shadow Minister for Regional Transport and Roads Jenny Aitchison said the Minister’s evidence confirmed that the promise was a cynical attempt to pork barrel regional communities.
“This was a “magic pudding” election promise; every Nationals and Liberal candidate could point to a potential road in their electorate which could be eligible for reclassification or transfer, and the Government still, nearly four years later, hasn’t transferred a single one of them,” Ms Aitchison said.
State Member for Lismore Janelle Saffin said the promise clearly is a burning topic amongst locals whose tyres and cars are being wrecked by our potholes that are voluminous and crater deep … it is burning holes in their pockets.
“We’ve got priority regional roads in Lismore City, Kyogle, Tenterfield Shire and Tweed Shire that have been put on the back burner by this city-centric Government,” Ms Saffin said.
“When this policy was announced it was 15,000 kilometres of regional roads and then the dissembling started with ‘up to’.
“That is the whole problem with this particular election commitment; it has been short on action, vague on detail and has left local councils and locals in limbo land.
“Lismore City Council is seeking to have regional roads – Wyrallah Road, Nimbin Road, Coraki Road and Kyogle Road (submission by Kyogle Council) – transferred to State ownership and management, but importantly, with councils keeping maintenance contracts to protect local outdoor jobs.
“Council is also seeking to have the following local roads reclassified to regional roads and transferred to the State: Rotary Drive/Uralba Street, Rous Road, Eltham Road, Caniaba Road, Wyrallah Ferry Road, Alphadale Road, Tregeagle Road, Broadwater Road and Richmond Hill Road.”
Ms Saffin confirmed Kyogle Council wants to hand back all 127 kilometres of regional roads under its control to the State Road network, also keeping maintenance contracts, and their applications were done in collaboration with neighbouring councils.
“This includes the full length of the Clarence Way, Mount Lindesay Road and Bentley Road, as well as Kyogle Road between Kyogle township and Nimbin Road,” Ms Saffin said.
“Tenterfield Shire Council’s main priorities are for a transfer of the Bruxner Way, supported by Gwydir, Inverell and Moree Plains shire councils, and Mount Lindesay Road.
“Tweed Shire applied to transfer part of the Tweed Coast Road between the Pacific Highway to Casuarina, which needs to be upgraded from two to four lanes to cope with future growth from major land releases and the new Tweed Valley Hospital.
“However, Tweed Shire is reserving its position on the transfer until Transport for NSW reveals further details of proposed changes to road classifications, maintenance funding, State prioritisation frameworks, and commitments to road upgrades.”