WIMMERA councils fear the region’s roads will suffer without urgent Federal Government funding.
The government’s $2.1 billion Roads to Recovery funding expired in June.
The Federal Government is trying to continue the funding, but its Land Transport Infrastructure Amendment Bill 2014 has failed to pass the Upper House, delaying the program for the next two years.
The program is worth almost $6 million to Wimmera roads, including $1.5 million in West Wimmera Shire, $1.2 million in both Yarriambiack and Northern Grampians shires, $1 million in Horsham Rural City and $850,000 in Hindmarsh Shire.
Horsham Mayor David Grimble said the Roads to Recovery funding was crucial for the region’s roads networks to survive.
“It is a critical part of our funding and we are very appreciative to receive it,” he said.
“Without it, we wouldn’t be able to maintain our roads.”
Cr Grimble said any changes to federal and state funding had an immediate effect on the renewal and improvement of council’s assets.
“One of the things about local government is that we do need state and federal support,” he said.
“Any reduction has an immediate effect on our budget.”
Rural Councils Victoria chairman and Hindmarsh Mayor Rob Gersch said without the funding, works would not get done.
“Naturally it is a big part of our road network funding and without that assistance, we would have to cut back enormously,” he said.
“It is critical that this funding is cleared so we can get on with doing the work we have planned.”
Cr Gersch said if local government was recognised in the constitution, it wouldn’t be an issue.
“It is critical that this funding is cleared so we can get on with doing the work we have planned.”Rural Councils Victoria chairman and Hindmarsh Mayor Rob Gersch
The nation was set to vote on a referendum for local government recognition last year, but the referendum was cancelled when the Labor Party changed the federal election date.
“This was one of the reasons why we wanted to be recognised – to stop this happening,” Cr Gersch said.
“It is really unfortunate the referendum failed.”
Cr Grimble said he was confident the Federal Government would find a way to deliver the Roads to Recovery funding.
“It doesn’t draw any alarm balls yet because all the federal politicians will be reminded by their own communities about how critical this funding is,” he said.
“Hopefully they will find a way through this and if it’s getting blocked in the Senate, hopefully there are ways around that.”
West Wimmera Shire councillor Bruce Meyer said council wanted to use the Roads to Recovery funding to carry out works at GrainCorp’s Lillimur site to ensure its future.
Victorian Farmers Federation president Peter Tuohey said the federation wanted the issue resolved.
“Poor road infrastructure can have dire consequences for freight operators as well as the safety of all Victorians who use our regional and rural road network,” he said.
“I’m calling on both sides of government to stop playing petty politics. All we want is our government to get on with the job of governing.
“It will be our farmers and regional Victorians who will suffer.”