The challenge of future road funding

Mayor Troy Pickard
ALGA President

In mid-August, the Minister for Urban Infrastructure, Paul Fletcher, made an important speech on the challenge of funding Australia’s roads into the future.  He highlighted our reliance on dwindling fuel excise and general taxation revenue for road funding and the lack of a direct link between road use and payment for those roads.     

This subject was the focus of a meeting I had with Minister Fletcher on 1 September, shortly after his speech, when I expressed my concern that the community as a whole and local government in particular had yet to engage on the challenges of how we identify the revenue streams to fund our roads in the face of declining excise revenue and how we manage the move to direct road user charging in which the funding for roads is directly related to actual vehicle use of those roads.

As a leader in the local government sector I am acutely aware of the size of the burden councils face in terms of road funding. I am also aware of the lack of understanding among the public at large of how our council roads are funded and how important
transfers from the other levels of government are. And yet those road funding grants from state and federal governments are going to come under increasing pressure over the next few years as tax revenues fall and Treasuries look to make savings. Additionally, council roads, which are lightly trafficked in relative terms, will be struggling to obtain sufficient funding in a world where funding revenue will be based on traffic volumes.          

As local government representatives we need to encourage and play our part in the conversation about how we face this challenge and how we secure funding for local roads through a robust system of Community Service Obligations.    

This critical issue is just one of the topics for discussion at ALGA’s forthcoming Local Roads and Transport Congress being held on 9-11 November in Toowoomba and I urge all councils to attend the Congress and put their views forward on how we face this and
other challenges.