Council responds to Grattan Institute report "Potholes and Pitfalls"

Published on 17 November 2023


Murrindindi Shire Council has welcomed the latest report from the Grattan Institute titled Potholes and Pitfalls: How to fix local roads.

The report maps the way to a better road network across Australia: an annual funding increase of $1 billion for local roads, better targeting to make sure the money goes to where it is needed most, and reforms to ensure that councils have the tools and time to fix the potholes and give their communities the roads they need.

A $1 billion funding injection would equate to a 25 per cent increase to current council spending on road maintenance.

It highlights that many councils do not have a realistic way of raising the money needed to keep their roads in good condition, particularly true for rural and remote councils.

It acknowledges that other changes need to happen concurrently to a funding injection, including more targeted funding and broader funding reforms for councils outside of the metro areas, and federal and state government assistance to aid under-resourced councils manage their road networks.

The report makes recommendations to boost funding for local roads, ensuring that untied funding goes where it is most needed, make tied funding less onerous for councils and to give councils more help to manage their roads.

Murrindindi Shire Council is the responsible road authority for the management of Council’s local roads and road related infrastructure. The local road network is Council’s largest asset category and comprises over 1,200 km of sealed and unsealed roads.

After Council increased roads funding for the 2023/24 financial year, the budget allocation to manage Council's roads and bridges to current service standards, is $8.89 million, of which $2.74 million is funded from the federal government. The remaining $6.15 million is funded from rates, which equates to 25% of Council rates funding the management of Council's roads. Council's capacity to fund other services and Council assets is impacted as a result.

Council's 10 Year Asset Plan is facing an annual renewal gap of $1.6 million if the current funding model is maintained over a ten-year period. This implies that road conditions may deteriorate if funding for roads and bridges is not increased. The report states the importance for the federal government to provide a fairer distribution of road funding that they receive from the fuel exercises.

The report highlighted the low levels of community consultation occurring regarding road-related maintenance and construction, and much of the time only occurs as a result of customer complaints or requests.

Council has established a Roads Advisory Group (CRAG) consisting of a range of local community representatives to advise on issues relating to road management, co-designing a set of shared values and principles that will guide Council's approach to road asset management, decision making processes and practices, supporting better outcomes for our communities.

For more information about the CRAG, including the summary report from its first meeting, click here.

The report highlighted two key trends in Australia’s climate: heavy rainfall and extreme heat are both on the rise. Both have detrimental impacts to roads. Where councils are facing highly constrained budgets, delays in repairs occur, which in turn end up costing road users and councils more in the long run. Council is not immune to these impacts to our roads, which are exasperated by emergencies and natural disasters. In the last 14 months, the Shire has experienced three floods and two grassfires.

Murrindindi Shire Council continues to advocate for repairs to major state roads across the Shire, such as the Melba Highway, Whittlesea-Yea Road, Maroondah Highway and Goulburn Valley Highway, which are the responsibility of the Victorian Government.

The report also detailed data from a recent survey indicating that Victorians rate both sealed and unsealed local roads among the most important of all council services, however these were also the services where Victorians were least satisfied by councils’ performance. Unsealed roads were ranked worst, and sealed roads sixth worst, out of 28 council services across the state. This is consistent with what we have heard from our community.

The local government sector has raised with the state government the issue of ongoing cost shifting, which puts further financial pressure on Councils endeavouring to best support communities through the current economic environment.

Rate capping inhibits Council’s ability to increase revenue, placing a greater reliance on government grants to deliver basic services like road maintenance for our community.

Whilst an extra $1 billion investment in federal government funding for local roads would be welcomed, it is noted that it would only help to maintain current service standards, and not deliver the very much needed improvements to road conditions.  

Quote attributable to Murrindindi Shire Council Mayor Damien Gallagher. 

“Recently, Council brought to the attention Municipal Association of Victoria members, the considerable impact on rural Councils of managing the deterioration of roads due to heavy vehicles and natural disaster exposure. The Grattan Institute report, ‘Potholes and Pitfalls’ provides additional, independent evidence to outline Council’s challenge.

Council’s advocacy efforts so far have had some success; however, more is needed to support our community. This latest report by the Grattan Institute affirms our advocacy efforts and the urgent needs in targeted road investment and support by federal and state governments to rural and remote councils, and strongly encourage positive reform and funding changes be implemented as a matter of urgency”.

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