Mitchell Shire Councillor Bill Chisholm has the poor quality of the region’s roads in his sights — and it appears he’s not alone.
Councillor Chisholm put forward a motion during the May ordinary council meeting, that council should undertake an independent analysis of the current and planned future local road budget to establish the level of funding required to ensure the long-term viability and minimum standards required for the Shire’s current and future road network.
Councillor Chisholm’s concerns were backed up in the recent customer satisfaction survey, the results of which show community satisfaction with both sealed and unsealed local roads across the state had decreased.
‘‘There appears to me to be a chronic underfunding of our roads network at both a council level and at a state level,’’ Councillor Chisholm said in his councillor comments.
‘‘A cursory look back at past council budgets shows a steady decline, and as a councillor representing rural areas, the issue of roads is coming up all the time.
‘‘I am advocating for these measures to establish a sound base on which roads funding decisions can be made in future years.’’
In the large rural council group of the state-wide survey — which includes Mitchell Shire — community satisfaction with sealed roads fell one index point to 43, compared to the state-wide average of 53, and unsealed roads satisfaction fell to 77.
Mitchell Shire Mayor Rhonda Sanderson said the 2017-18 Draft Budget showed that while ratepayers’ contribution to the shire’s 1380km road network had increased, overall road spending had decreased due to a drop in government grant funding.
In 2015, the Victorian Government stopped the Country Roads and Bridges Initiative, which provided $1million per year to Mitchell Shire, or the equivalent of a three per cent rate rise.
‘‘We know roads and road safety are high priorities for our community, but the reality is we can’t do it alone,’’ Councillor Sanderson said.
‘‘Maintaining local road networks is a major challenge for councils, especially large rural and interface councils that lack the capacity to invest money and close the asset renewal gap, which means our local roads are declining faster than they can be maintained or upgraded.
‘‘We need funding from other sources such as State and Federal governments and these survey results clearly highlight that need across the large rural council group.’’