13 February 2023

Bumpy roads bring politicians to Wagga ahead of the NSW state election

| Chris Roe
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Sam Farraway and Andrianna Benjamin

Minister for Regional Transport and Roads Sam Farraway and Nationals candidate for Wagga Wagga Andrianna Benjamin. Photo: Supplied.

Whether it’s a drive to the shops or a road trip to the city, NSW voters are acutely aware of the problems with the regional road network.

And so are the state’s politicians, it seems, with both the Coalition and Labor sending delegations to Wagga on the weekend ahead of the 25 March NSW state election.

Minister for Regional Transport and Roads Sam Farraway popped up on Saturday alongside Nationals candidate for Wagga Wagga Andrianna Benjamin to announce $4.6 million in additional Fixing Local Roads funding for the region.

READ ALSO Commonwealth Bank to pause regional bank closures following Junee community revolt

“This funding builds on the $500 million boost to help metropolitan and regional councils tackle the mammoth task of repairing the state’s road network, following months of extreme weather events,” declared Mr Farraway, suggesting that the fundamental problem dates back to the pre-2011 administration.

“Under the former Labor government, our roads went to wrack and ruin, and councils were left to fend for themselves,” he said.

“The NSW Liberal and Nationals Government has built a strong economy so we can continue to invest in the infrastructure that matters.”

The funding includes $1,332,283 for Tarcutta’s Keajura Road, $344,850 for Hollies Road in Lockhart shire, and $2,956,800 for Yaven Creek Road in the Snowy Valleys.

“Councils have asked for help and we’re responding to help them improve the roads you use every day and keep our great state moving forward,” Mr Farraway said.

Ms Benjamin agreed that maintaining the roads was vital to the regional economy and welcomed the funding.

“Ensuring smoother journeys on our local road network will also assist with business revitalisation and growth after the challenges endured from natural disasters and COVID-19,” she said.

Jenny Aitchison and Keryn Foley

Shadow Minister for Regional Transport and Roads Jenny Aitchison and Wagga’s Labor candidate Keryn Foley.

On Sunday, Labor hit back as the Shadow Minister for Regional Transport and Roads Jenny Aitchison joined Wagga’s newly anointed Labor candidate Keryn Foley to question the Government’s support for local councils.

“Councils have been bearing the brunt of the maintenance, particularly through the weather events and flooding that we’ve had over the last three years,” Ms Aitchison said.

According to Ms Aitchison, the Government had failed to deliver on a three-year-old promise to reclassify 15,000 kilometres of country roads.

READ ALSO Labor’s candidate for Wagga picks women’s health as election battleground

The 2019 plan aimed to streamline funding and take pressure off cash-strapped local councils by transferring key roads to state ownership while continuing council maintenance contracts.

“To date, zero roads have been transferred in the regions,” she said.

“This is a breach of promise. It’s really a disgrace. It’s taken three years for the independent panel to do their report.”

The NSW Regional Road Transfer and Classification Review evaluated more than 500 submissions and the report was delivered to Mr Farraway in November.

Asked whether Labor would commit to implementing the reclassification or increasing funds to regional roads, Ms Aitchison said the new government would need to see the report.

“It’s got to be something that tells us and guides us, because at the moment it feels like everyone’s being told it’s an evidence-based project, but the evidence never arrived.”

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