Councils in the Hunter Region Stand to Lose 39% of Roads Funding under Planned Merger

Labor is warning a secret NSW Government plan to merge two road funding schemes could financially cripple some councils in the Hunter region and lead to job losses.

Documents obtained by Labor show councils in the Hunter region could lose 39 per cent of roads funding under a proposal by Transport for NSW and the Minister for Regional Transport and Roads Paul Toole.

The two funding schemes are currently separate, but a new report lays bare the Government’s plans to merge the two, which will severely impact local councils’ ability to maintain regional road infrastructure

Despite the report being finalised in January 2020, and appearing in the Transport for NSW 2019-20 Annual Report, Minister Toole told a Budget Estimates hearing that he was only “made aware of this report last week” after Labor received it under freedom of information.

The report warns that the Government’s preferred new funding model would result in some councils receiving “a significantly lower funding allocation due to the revised structure.”

Labor’s Shadow Minister for the Hunter Clayton Barr said the financial future of Hunter councils should not be put at risk because of this Government’s mismanagement of roads.

“This Government doesn’t have a handle on managing NSW roads. It’s a mess, and it threatens the safety of road users, the viability of rural and regional Councils and local jobs,” Mr Barr said.

Labor’s Shadow Minister for Regional Roads Mick Veitch warned the Government’s plan could lead to job losses.

“We’ve been asking the Government for months to give an assurance on funding and jobs through this funding scheme but have been left in the dark until this report,” Mr Veitch said.

At Budget Estimates yesterday, the Minister Toole failed to rule out cutting jobs or funding to local councils across the state, saying he “can’t guarantee anything” in response to repeated questions from Mr Veitch.

This comes on top of the Government’s mismanagement of the promised transfer of 15,000 kilometres of rural and regional roads to the State, which the government repeatedly refuses to guarantee will not cost local jobs across the state.

Transport for NSW documents previously confirmed the government is looking to rip more than $151.5 million in grants from rural and regional councils every year when 15,000 kilometres of council-owned roads is transferred to the State.

Councils rely on contracts to maintain roads and jobs.  Dungog Shire Council in the Hunter region is responsible for all the local roads and will face the biggest financial hit.