The decline in asset management capability in NSW local government risks undermining the sector’s ability to plan for, maintain and renew road infrastructure.
The 2019 Road Asset Benchmarking Project released last week also indicates that deteriorating timber bridges on local roads risks further isolating already vulnerable local communities.
To enable local government to maintain timber bridges and other local transport infrastructure to a satisfactory standard, the report says additional annual funding of $351 million is need, along with improved strategic asset management capacity.
The benchmarking project – a joint initiative between Institute of Public Works Engineering Australasia NSW and Local Government NSW – said road funding for urban councils had narrowed between 2005 and 2019.
However, rural councils with large unsealed networks and low populations “continue to struggle to maintain their roads and bridges”.
Overall funding overall remained inadequate, reflected by the fact that 9 percent of road assets in NSW are now reported to be in a poor or very poor condition – up from 7.5 percent in 2017.
“Current funding arrangements are inadequate to deliver safe, efficient and resilient road and bridge infrastructure to the community on an on-going basis into the future,” the report says, “and are not sufficient to boost heavy vehicle access and thus economic productivity.”
IPWEA NSW President Warren Sharpe said: “It is recommended that local government continue to improve asset management performance, and that the NSW Government develop a sustainable funding model for NSW councils”.
Evidence was collected from 128 NSW councils for the 2019 benchmarking report, which is intended to drive more informed discussions on infrastructure investments, delivering efficiencies and ultimately, delivering better infrastructure for communities around NSW.