ROCKY ROADS: A new NRMA report revealed Lismore Council needs $79.27m to repair its roads which are are suffering pothole fever after recent floods and weather events.
ROCKY ROADS: A new NRMA report revealed Lismore Council needs $79.27m to repair its roads which are are suffering pothole fever after recent floods and weather events. Samantha Elley

$430m to fix Northern Rivers roads

IF YOU'VE been cursing the potholes and the state of roads on the Northern Rivers then you won't be surprised to learn the region has a repair backlog of $430 million.

And the lives lost during 2011 and 2015 cost the community over a billion dollars.

On Thursday the National Roads and Motorists Association released its annual Funding Local Roads report, highlighting a $1.96 billion funding backlog needed to bring New South Wales' local roads up to a 'satisfactory condition' and renewing calls for improved funding support for local roads.

The report revealed the North Coast region has NSW's largest infrastructure backlog at $430.7 million, and with 22% of the total backlog, accounts for nearly a quarter of the total deficit.

This includes Lismore Council needing $79.27m, Clarence Valley $43.68m, Kyogle $32.95m and Byron $32.37m, to get the roads into a satisfactory state, which means you can comfortably drive on the road at the posted speed limit.

The region was also named also has the biggest maintenance shortfall of $13.8 million.

But the good news is Lismore's bill is down 10.2% from 88.6m in 2014-15.

NRMA Director Fiona Simson said the report paints a worrying picture of the increased maintenance backlog across NSW councils, with a 13.2% rise in the backlog deficit between 2014-15 and 2015-16.

Ms Simson said a deteriorating road network meant longer travel times, unsafe roads and lost economic productivity.

"It is alarming to see local councils like Lismore, Byron and Kyogle with such large infrastructure backlogs," she said.

"This indicates they do not have the funds to carry out basic road maintenance, such as adding lanes, potholes and line markings."

Ms Simson said it's not all bad news for the region, as Kempsey, Richmond Valley and Tweed councils had percentage falls in their infrastructure backlogs.

But she said safer roads are critical.

"In the Far North Coast region between 2011-2015, lives lost in the Far North Coast region cost the community over a billion dollars," Ms Simson said.

"We all know the devastating impact that road trauma has on regional communities, any life lost is one life too many, and improving the condition of our roads is critical to reducing the road toll."

Ms Simson said local councils have a tough job maintaining local roads, with insufficient funds to cover basic road maintenance such as fixing potholes, gutter repair and repainting faded lines.

"Increasing local roads funding would benefit the broader community, as the cost of crashes to the NSW economy amounts to $7.1 billion each year," she said.

She said a variety of factors were behind the backlog, including population growth and increased density in regional centres placing pressure on the road network, falling council rates revenue and inadequate funding systems.

"The lack of an effective long term solution will place increasing pressure on the NSW local and regional road network, with road safety being a significant concern," she said.

"We need action now to effectively plan for and fund local roads, or the social and economic cost to local communities will continue to increase."

Over 80% of Australia's roads are maintained by local councils, with many struggling to fund the work.

The NRMA report used figures submitted by 15 North Coast Councils to the NSW Government.

Lismore Civic Services manager, Darren Patch it's widespread problem.

"It's a big number but we are not alone and there is no quick fix," he said.

"Unless someone suddenly gives us a big bucket-load of money, the roads won't magically fix themselves."

Mr Patch said unfortunately, no extra funding is available from other tiers of government to deal with this backlog, so it is up to individual councils to try and manage the problem.

"What we strive to do is ensure the road network is not falling into even greater disrepair, that's our biggest goal, to ensure we maintain the current service level for today's residents as well as future generations," he said.

"In order to achieve that, we have a mix of strategies at work (and) we are coming up with better ways to fill potholes, more effective road treatments and we're focused on waterproofing roads and fixing them before they fail so it costs ratepayers less."

"Mr Patch said Council is also proposing a $3 million Special Rate Variation to take effect from 1 July 2019.

"This money cannot be spent on anything else, it must be solely spent maintaining our sealed and unsealed road network," he said.

"For the average ratepayer, it will work out at less than a cup of coffee a week, and will enable Council to bring our roads up to a satisfactory condition and maintain them at that level."

North Coast Councils requiring the most funds to fix roads

Port Macquarie-Hastings - $97.24 million;

Lismore - $79.27 million;

Greater Taree - $63.38 million;

Gloucester - $51.24 million;

Clarence Valley - $43.68 million;

Kyogle - $32.95 million;

Byron - $32.37 million;


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