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Mayor welcomes Labor’s roads pledge

Geoff Helisma |

Clarence Valley Council’s mayor, Jim Simmons, has welcomed NSW opposition leader Michael Daley’s pledge to “assist local councils to clear their regional road maintenance backlog by investing an additional $900 million in regional and rural roads”.

If elected, NSW Labor says this will “almost double the existing $543million Fixing Country Roads program … bringing total investment to $1.4 billion” over the next five years.

Or as Country Labor candidate Trent Gilbert put it in a media release: “This means over $23M to the Clarence electorate.

“These funds will help get roads throughout Clarence and Richmond council areas back to an acceptable standard.”

Mayor Jim Simmons said: “We could do with all of that.

“We have some pretty crook roads, so at the end of the day I think it is a great announcement.

“We have a big backlog – we continue to receive complaints about seven or eight gravel roads – and we need the money if we’re going to seal some of those roads or increase our rounds of grading on gravel roads.

“I don’t think the council has been treated fairly regarding state government funding in the past.”

Labor’s announcement was also welcomed by the NRMA, after it had released its Funding Local Roads report, which found NSW councils had reported a $2.2 billion backlog in funding required to maintain roads to a safe standard.

“The overwhelming majority of the backlog ($1.7billion) fell to regional councils,” the NRMA’s media release stated.

“With … the NSW election [approaching] now is the time for both parties to outline how they will keep NSW moving,” NRMA spokesperson Peter Khoury said.

“The announcement by NSW opposition leader Michael Daley and shadow roads minister Jodi McKay is welcomed by the NRMA.

“It helps address a critical shortage in funding needed by councils – as was called out by the NRMA last month.”

Meanwhile, on December 11, the NSW Government announced that it had made a “common sense change to the way local councils apply for Fixing Country Roads grants”.

Minister for Roads, Maritime and Freight Melinda Pavey said the government had changed the grant application system, to now receive “rolling applications for Fixing Country Roads funding”.

“Councils can now apply for roads funding anytime,” she said.