President’s column

In 2012, a young Sarah Frazer’s car broke down. Jammed up to a guardrail and straddling the edge of the inner highway lane, she and her tow truck driver were killed instantly by a distracted driver.

Although the driver was guilty of dangerous driving, the road was also at fault by not being constructed to Austroads standards requiring sufficient room to pull off the road safely.

Delegates at this week’s National Local Roads and Transport Congress in Alice Springs had the privilege of hearing Sarah’s story first hand from her father Peter Frazer, who founded and runs Safer Australian Roads and Highways (SARAH) in her memory. In the words of Cr Stuart James who attended the congress, you could hear a pin drop as delegates solemnly listened to Peter talk about the needless deaths and the critical issues of road design and road safety.

Understanding and accepting responsibility for minimising road trauma on our local roads provoked much discussion at the congress. As owners and managers of 75% of the nation’s roads by length, 662,000 kms in total, it’s a topic that can’t be ignored – local roads are very much part of the national safety narrative.

The data reveals that 1200 Australians are killed, 480 of them on local roads, every year. Many more are hospitalised, some 36,000 nationwide. Using the same ratios that’s 14,400 serious injuries occurring on our council and shire-owned roads. Targeted black spot programs are great, but there is so much more we need to think about if we are to play our part in helping prevent so many injuries and deaths.

Does your team understand the safety risks on your roads? Have they done any network analysis, not just isolated solutions? Have you asked your local hospital if you can look at admissions data related to road related incidents to identify trends and hotspots? Have you looked at accident reports to understand what really went wrong? If we don’t understand the real issues we may invest in the wrong solutions.

Data is so important. It might reveal that an education program for your local youth, or your local oldies(!), might be the best place to start. Or it could be narrow roads, soft shoulders, sharp bends, unsealed surfaces, or any number of design issues. The message at the congress was clear, accept our responsibilities, find the data, and think about safety every time we look at spending a dollar on our road networks. How we spend the money, and on what, could prevent a serious injury for someone in your community, or even save a life.

The 2018 National State of the Assets report was also launched at the congress. The report’s findings support our calls to the Commonwealth to boost funding for our local infrastructure, but in particular our calls to improve the long-term financial sustainability of local government by restoring Financial Assistance Grants funding levels back to at least 1% of Commonwealth taxation revenue.

Did you know that 21% of our timber bridges are in poor or very poor condition? The report also reveals that our backlog of all fixed assets in poor or very poor condition has grown from $27b in 2015 to $30b, despite our best efforts and welcome Federal assistance over recent years. It also warns of a tsunami of assets built in the boom years during the 50s and 60s that are coming to end of life, further challenging our efforts to ever surmount the backlog without greater assistance.

I would like to thank Jeff Roorda and his team at TechnologyOne for delivering the report. I would also like to thank Peter Frazer and all of the speakers at the congress including Downer and Hume Council on incorporating plastics into hotmix, and a range of other experts; each of them contributed to our understanding of some of the most important roads and transport policy issues facing our nation and local government and helped us to prepare for some of the challenges that lay ahead.

And finally, thank you to Mayor Damien Ryan and his team at the Alice Springs Town Council for their hospitality – and a very impressive thunderstorm on Tuesday night that saw water flow into the normally very dry Todd River!

Keep up the great work. 


Mayor David O’Loughlin

 ALGA President