A dearth of state funding and little action to maintain roads in the North East has left councils being blamed for "extremely dangerous" conditions for motorists, a federal inquiry into the roads network has been told.
Wangaratta council said it was forced into the position of having little funding to maintain roads in its LGA as people avoided some state-managed roads because of their poor condition; Towong council said it was "difficult to move funds out of vital areas" into maintenance for roads.
Wangaratta and Towong councils were the first to give evidence at a hearing on July 17 of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Regional Development, Infrastructure and Transport which is looking at ways to improve regional road networks.
Towong mayor Andrew Whitehead said the council was already "cut to the bone".
"I think probably that's why the roads are in this condition they are at the moment," Mr Whitehead said. "We can't close the swimming pools or close the libraries to try to put more money into the roads.
"In a small rural council like Towong we're cut to the bone ... we don't have the ability to move money from one area to another, just to help the road network when it's in such dire needs because the community actually needs the other things that we provide to them.
"They can't just go without, it's not right on small rural communities to not have those things, they should have the same opportunities that their metro counterparts have as well."
Mr Whitehead suggested funding could be provided on a needs basis rather than on traffic volume statistics.
"The funding stream needs to actually look at different things apart from the volume of traffic on roads," he said. "We tend to see at this stage that if we talk about the Murray Valley Highway, the further away from Wodonga we get the worse the road gets.
"And I may be making assumptions but I'm assuming that's because the volume of traffic decreases the further away from a major city or a major centre, the roads become worse, but we still have to get our produce over those roads."
Outside of the hearing, another Towong councillor Aaron Scales earlier posted that he had counted 207 potholes while driving from Lockharts Gap Road to Dartmouth.
"At least 12 are extremely dangerous and rip tyres apart," he posted. "C'mon state government, invest in regional roads or have more lives on your hands."
Wangaratta Council's community and infrastructure direct Marcus Goonan told the hearing pressure was put on local roads as a consequence of poorly maintained state-managed roads.
"It is the state maintained road network, a really significant part, I would suggest that at this point in time, people are avoiding," Mr Googan said. "(They're) avoiding some of the state maintained roads and pushing more traffic onto our local roads, which has a detrimental impact.
"If we look at some of the work that's been done by Tourism North East, and some significant funding that we've had from the state to increase our network and our tourism area, which is the King Valley, we have one major road that goes up to the King Valley, it's in incredibly poor condition, very narrow ... it's extremely dangerous.
"We need to see the state putting more funding into roads and making sure that their road network is up to scratch - that allows us to take some of the impact off some of the local government area roads.
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"I think everyone also thinks that every road is maintained by council so that certainly certainly leads a little bit more on to some of the pressure from the public, we understand that everyone wants to get to their house.
"If we could get some more funding into the state road network, it would take some pressure off our local road network for sure. Particularly to some of our tourist hotspots from Wangaratta's point of view anyway."
Wodonga Council's planning and infrastructure director Leon Schultz said the city had a relatively small geographic area but that road maintenance costs had soared since last year's flooding.
"We have found that recent events have necessitated council's road maintenance costs over the last two years increasing by about 44 per cent from $1.6 million to about $2.4 million a year," Mr Schultz said.
"That's quite considerable ... we're in a rate-capped environment and some of the some of the financial assistance grants are apparently diminishing as well to the council.
"So these are these are costs and tasks that are burdening the city at the moment."
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