Wymer: disaster funding for repairs not capital works

After the devastating floods of December 2010 and March 2012 across NSW, Young Shire Council pocketed $4.2 million in funding assistance under the Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements.

This amount of cash may sound like a windfall, but it could only be spent on repairing damage caused by the floods and heavy rainfall, Young Shire Council director of operations Dirk Wymer said,

“The fundamental principal of natural disaster funding is to repair… not to complete capital works,” he said.

“Under the program, council is eligible to have the costs of repairing identified damage reimbursed.”

Mr Wymer said the funding totaled $950,000 for 2013/14, including $450,000 to assist with gravel road repair, and the remainder on sealed road projects.

“Council will be carrying out the final inspections on the program with the RMS staff,” he said.

Although Mr Wymer couldn’t give a figure to how many complaints the shire receives on the rural roads, he said council faced major obstacles to funding road upgrades and maintenance.

This, he said, was not a problem unique to Young.

“The Local Government Infrastructure Audit June 2013 in which the total infrastructure backlog for all NSW councils was estimated to be $7.4 billion at 30 June 2012, of which $4.5 billion relates to roads and related assets and $1 billion relates to buildings. The infrastructure backlog is over $1000 per head of the NSW population,” Mr Wymer said.

“Another of the challenges facing not only Young Shire but local government is the resilience of the road pavements. Thin flexible pavements have not been designed for the increasing volumes and weight of road freight traffic and a period of extended rainfall can result in lots of damage to the network.”

And cuts to the indexation of council’s federal assistance grants, set to come into effect this week, will put a further squeeze on council’s funding.

Mr Wymer said the expected shortfall of $475,000 in roads funding could set council’s works projects back by up to a year.

But Mr Wymer denied a resident’s claim a council grader and roller sat inactive on the side of the road for weeks.

“I don’t believe a claim of a grader sitting idle for eight weeks could be justified given council is given regular reports on the works program and also regular reports on plant utilisation,” he said.

Looking to the future, Mr Wymer said council was planning for the ongoing improvement of roads.

These plans include the reconstruction of the urban heavy vehicle routes through town, an application to participate in the Local Infrastructure Renewal Scheme, plans to widen the shoulder on Murringo and Milvale Roads, planned gravel roads reconstruction and resheeting and bitumen sealing some of the local gravel roads carrying higher traffic volumes.

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