Farmers, freight and councils call for road network rebuild after months of flooding

anlene
5 Min Read

A new road alliance says a $5.5 billion investment into Australia’s rural road network is needed to help put downward pressure on grocery prices and support regional economies.

In the past 12 months, the Rural Roads Alliance says there have been 23 flood events and 429 flood declarations across 277 local government areas nationally.

One of the major casualties of the extensive flooding has been the road networks.

It says that in NSW alone, there are roughly 10,000 kilometers of damaged roads.

The alliance, made up of industry and local government groups, has called on the federal government for an emergency funding package totaling nearly $5.5 billion for regional road and infrastructure reconstruction, “first and last mile” freight connections, and to build long-term climate resilience for freight networks.

The group is petitioning not to just patch potholes but to rebuild roads.

“It’s got to such a critical point,” GrainGrowers general manager of policy and advocacy Zach Whale said.

“The especially wet couple of years on the east coast means the road surface has just broken up and there has not been the ability to fix that quickly enough.”

Photo of David Jochinke, grains farmer.
National Farmers Federation vice president David Jochinke said a functional road network would improve livability for all regional Australians.(Landlines: Tim Lee)

The alliance — comprised of GrainGrowers, National Farmers Federation, Australian livestock and Rural Transporters Association, and the Australian Local Government Association — want the federal government to “understand the gravity of this”.

“It’s a huge problem. It’s a big price tag but it’s a big pay-off for all regional road users if we can get this right,” Mr Whale said.

“There’s been a lot of talk recently about escalating food costs [and] transport is a component of that.

“If you can start to actually address these rural transportation issues it also has a flow-on impact to the cost of goods.”

Farmers take hits from natural disasters

The cost of natural disasters on the country’s economy has already tipped $5 billion.

National Farmers Federation vice president David Jochinke said the farming sector had taken a huge hit, with many parts of the country still navigating route variations.

“I’ve heard of farmers having to travel three or four times as far as to get access to their properties. I’ve heard of multiple people with damages to their vehicles,” he said.

“The rural road network goes beyond getting produce to and from the paddock. It’s actually about livability, the school buses, it’s about getting people to and from work safely.”

During another bumper harvest, Mr Whale said an already strained supply chain was further strangled by the inadequate road network.

“Ultimately people do what they’ve got to do and you get the job done,” he said.

“But it’s also about getting critical inputs in … whether it’s fuel, fertilizer.

“That freight network needs to work both ways and if we can do that, that brings down costs and that will help the community as a whole.”

A road mostly inundated with water next to a flooded paddock.
A number of major highways, including the Cobb Highway, have seen lengthy closures.(Supplied: Central Darling Shire Council)

Mr. Whale stressed that while it was “not a cheap task” the government needed to commit to rebuilding the road network to shore it against future climatic pressures.

“It’s not enough to just repair the road to the same spec,” he said.

“Anyone who’s driven in rural Australia in the past couple of years would understand.”

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