More than 100 regional and rural councils will be vying for $37.5 million in roads funding out of a total state government roads budget of $5.5 billion.
The sum available under the Country Roads and Bridges program has been described as ‘paltry’ by shadow roads minister Walt Secord.
NSW Deputy premier Andrew Stoner and roads minister Duncan Gay recently called for expressions of interest from local councils.
Expressions of Interest will close on Monday, August 4. Shortlisted proposals will be invited to submit a full application and the successful projects will be announced late 2014.
Lismore MP Thomas George said the $37.5 million initiative was aimed at improving local infrastructure.
‘Industry support and collaboration is particularly important, and I call upon local industry bodies to assist councils with access to key data, including business needs analysis, freight movements, co-contribution and operating limitations,’ Mr George said.
‘Priority will be given to local projects that are well developed, with planning and environmental approvals well advanced so construction can begin in the 2014-15 financial year.’
Lismore mayor Jenny Dowell told Echonetdaily that council staff were assessing possible submissions which would comply with the guidelines.
She conceded that like other councils in the northern rivers region, Lismore could easily spend the entire $37.5 million on its road network.
‘Dollars don’t go very far on roads, especially if there is substantial damage and it’s necessary to reconstruct the road,’ she said.
She would not be drawn on calls for the National Party to lift its game on regional road funding, saying ‘this government is no different to others’.
‘Whatever the flavor of the government is, most funding for roads seems to be very Sydney-centric,’ she said.
She said Lismore put around a third of its entire budget, or about $30 million, into the road network each year.
Meanwhile, Mr Secord called on the Nationals to explain why they were supporting pouring billions into ‘Sydney’s north shore electorates while at the same time demanding NSW regional councils compete against each other for a mere $37.5 million.’
Upon completion, the Northern Beaches Tunnel will cost $1.9 billion and the Northconnex will cost $3 billion,’ Mr Secord said.
‘The Nationals have completely lost touch with rural, regional and coastal NSW. They are taking rural and regional families for granted and they just expect them to vote for them.’