The newly formed Rural Road Alliance is calling for an emergency funding package of almost $5.5 billion in the next Federal Budget to help repair the road network.
The alliance represents stakeholders from across regional Australia including farmers, transporters and local councils and was formed in response to the critical challenges facing Australia’s rural road network in the wake of recent flooding and high rainfall.
The Alliance includes GrainGrowers, the National Farmers Federation (NFF), Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) and Australian Livestock and Rural Transporters Association (ALRTA).
Since January 2022, there have been 23 flood events, with 429 declarations across 277 local government areas (LGAs).
In the last two months alone, constant east coast flooding has seen more than 82,000km o roads impacted by flood-related closures across NSW, Queensland, Victoria, and South Australia, while Western Australia has experienced the devastation of Cyclone Seroja.
The alliance said recent flooding had taken a wrecking ball to regional roads, including the nationally significant Hume, Newell, Calder, and Western highways.
It added that natural disasters and extreme weather events have already cost the Australian economy $5 billion in 2022, according to Treasury estimates, as a result of widespread disruption to key industries such as agriculture.
GrainGrowers chair, Rhys Turton, said the rural road network was now at breaking point.
“We’re already seeing recently repaired roads crumbling. It’s thrown a challenging grain harvest into disarray as farmers and transporters struggle to move grain from paddock to port,” Turton said.
NFF chief executive, Tony Mahar, has labelled the damage as catastrophic. “We’re looking for a substantial, long-term commitment. We can’t be left driving on decimated roads once the politicians and news cameras move onto the next disaster,” Mahar said.
While ALRTA executive director, Mat Munro, said the damage was already undermining productivity and safety in the regions. “Severely damaged roads are dramatically increasing the time and cost of moving freight to and from our rural production centres.
“It’s harder on our vehicles, it’s harder on our drivers, and it’s harder on our livestock. It’s holding back development of our regional communities and undermining safety and welfare for all users of country roads.”
According to ALGA CEO Matt Pinnegar, the ongoing impacts of climate change should prompt a fundamental shift in the way Australia funds, delivers and maintains its roads.
“The flooding, fires and cyclones we’ve seen over the past few years are unprecedented. What we need now is unprecedented funding – not just to repair our roads, but to strengthen them for future events,” Pinnegar said.
In the lead up to the Federal Budget, the Rural Road Alliance is calling for an emergency funding package totalling nearly $5.5 billion, including:
- A one-off injection of $1 billion over four years directed at regional road and infrastructure reconstruction for councils impacted by flooding and other natural disasters to ensure the rebuild is to a standard more resilient to future disaster events;
- $800 million a year over four years for the Roads to Recovery Program;
- $300 million a year over four years to address first and last mile freight productivity; and,
- targeted funding through the Roads of Strategic Importance program to improve the long-term climate resilience of freight networks.
The Alliance said its proposed funding package was an opportunity for the Federal Government to stem the rapid deterioration of Australia’s rural road network, and to reduce the cost to the budget of future climate events.