A federal program of works to fix unsealed roads in remote parts of the country is offering local councils grants to cover between 80% and 100% of costs for the upgrade.
With remote communities experiencing a death toll 10 times greater than that in major cities, and four times greater than major cities in the case of regional communities, the government has described the program as a ‘critical’ safety initiative.
Nationals leader and deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce said many of the roads that would be repaired under the program — which included resurfacing works, removing dangerous corners and managing vegetation — have not been upgraded in over 100 years.
“Many of these remote roads haven’t been touched since the Great Depression,” Joyce said.
“It is critical we ensure everyone has equitable access to local community centres including schools and medical care and that citizens are not cut off from their local townships due to the condition of roads.”
The multi-million dollar remote roads upgrade pilot program is part of the federal government’s $110 billion nationwide infrastructure investment program over the next decade. Its announcement comes ahead of a looming federal election tipped to be called any month until May 2022.
Guidelines for the roadworks funding program will be released by the end of year, and applications will be accepted to remediate unsealed roads that extend more than 20 kilometres.
The deputy prime minister said project grants from the program will be allocated by the government in partnership with local councils, as well as state and territory jurisdictions.
“[We] will partner with local government in delivering this new funding to address many neglected roads that are out of sight to most people.
“We recognise the costs of upgrading rural and regional roads are often prohibitive for local governments,” Joyce added.
“This is not about sealing roads; it is about making them safer. It is about putting down gravel to stop parents getting bogged in the rain when they drive their kids to school; it is about removing dangerous corners.