GREATER HUME'S $84M BLACK HOLE

EDITORIAL: A long road to nowhere

Greater Hume has racked up an $84 million road infrastructure backlog in the past five years — the largest in southern NSW — according to NRMA statistics released yesterday.

The council’s $30 million annual income, of which $7 million is diverted to roads, is insufficient to address a shortfall that is growing every year.

NRMA director Graham Blight was in Jindera yesterday as part of a tour to address council road infrastructure backlogs that total more than $762 million in southern NSW and more than $3 billion statewide.

“The situation is deteriorating,” Mr Blight said.

“I’ve been talking for years about the tsunami of road funding that’s coming; it’s just building up and it’s only going to get worse.”

He said Greater Hume’s revenue could never overcome its backlog woes and state and federal governments had to step in.

He said the alternative was for councils to put up their rates.

The NRMA said Albury’s roads backlog was $10.4 million, Berrigan $4.3 million, Corowa $23 million, Deniliquin $3.4 million, Jerilderie $1.1 million, Tumbarumba $1.5 million and Wagga $64.5 million.

A Productivity Commission report into public infrastructure released yesterday suggested a pay-as-you-go tax model with satellite-navigation tracking motorists’ road use.

Mr Blight said he would support the idea “as long as they don’t double dip”.

“The motorist at the moment is probably the most heavily taxed section of the community,” Mr Blight said.

“We already pay $15 billion a year in fuel excise and we get back out of that about $5 billion.”

He said the excise should either revert back to being used solely for roads, as it was from 1929 to 1959, or scrapped altogether if a user-pays road tax was introduced.

Mr Blight will meet Greater Hume general manger Steven Pinnuck, mayor Heather Wilton and engineering director Greg Blackie today to discuss the council’s road funding shortfall.

Mr Pinnuck said the council’s backlog arose from the large number of roads it managed compared with the rate income from its small population.

“Unfortunately, because of the size of the shire and the small population, it presents us with a problem other councils don’t face,” he said.

Mr Pinnuck said they would discuss with Mr Blight the state of the Jingellic and Coppabella roads and an “unacceptable” Henty railway crossing.

He said the council also planned to discuss the need for government funding, but he believed the solution required increased council efficiency, improved road maintenance and rate increases.

Mr Pinnuck said the council was aiming to increase its road expenditure by 20 per cent.

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