Work begins on finishing the last section of narrow roadway on Old Toogoom Rd at Torbanlea.
Work begins on finishing the last section of narrow roadway on Old Toogoom Rd at Torbanlea. Alistair Brightman

Clarence roadworks backlog is second worst in NSW

THE Clarence Valley; home to immense natural beauty, Australia's only double span lifting bridge, and the state's second biggest road repair and upgrade backlog.

A new report released by the NRMA has called for urgent action to help struggling councils clear a multi-billion dollar backlog of road repairs and upgrades.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Clarence Valley Council area has the second highest infrastructure backlog in New South Wales, with an estimated $224 million of repairs waiting to be done.

Clarence Valley Mayor Richie Williamson said there was no denying it was a major problem in the region and that the council had under-funded the roads network by millions of dollars a year.

But the figure of $224 million, while accurate at the end of the 2013-14 financial year, was expected to come down significantly due to a more precise asset management plan being undertaken.

Clarence ranks second in worst road repair backlog in the state: Are you surprised by this? Do you think it contributes to the number of accidents in the region?

Posted by The Daily Examiner on Wednesday, 6 May 2015

"The previous report was not as accurate as the new data that we have and we have refined that number very significantly, but there is no one denying that we have a backlog issue," Cr Williamson said.

"How we might meet that challenge is going to be subject of some very difficult decisions in the very near future."

He said the community had highlighted a well-maintained road network as its most important priority.

"It is almost a given that we do need to prioritise our spending to reflect the issues that we have and one of them without a question in the world is the quality of our road network," he said.

"Our ratepayers have said you're not spending enough on roads, and we now have the evidence that backs it up; the challenge is how we fund that gap over the life of the asset.

"Council will not be increasing the rates outside the permissible limit for the next financial year but we need to have a look at long term financing of that problem into the future.

"It is something that would need to be considered as part of a solution."

Cr Williamson said the assets owned by the Clarence Valley came to a rough value of about $2 billion.

The council area's unsealed road network is in the vicinity of 1000km.

"In rough terms that's like an unsealed road between Clarence and Melbourne that we need to fund and maintain he said.

"There are a lot of assets that we look after and control and continual funding of those assets is a challenge we are trying to overcome."

To assist councils, the NRMA has called for the tripling of Roads to Recovery and other recurrent grants. NRMA president Kyle Loades said upgrading dangerous roads made a huge difference to the road toll.

"Recent upgrades to the Princes Highway north of Jervis Bay have resulted in a 90% decrease in injury crashes, so we know fixing regional roads will save lives," he said.

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