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Monday, 26 March 2001
Page: 25614

Mr St CLAIR (4:59 PM) —I rise in the House today to again bring to the House's attention the importance of the Roads to Recovery program to local councils, particularly local councils in my electorate of New England. There has been quite considerable discussion on the Roads to Recovery program and the fact that it is delivering for our road networks in regional Australia a much needed and long overdue level of service that we have been unable to provide through local government for a long time. In the 11 years that I was involved in local councils as a councillor and then as a mayor one of the dreams I had was to see funds coming to our local council roads to fix that little culvert or that bit of road that had always been boggy in rainy times and to be able to ensure that the children of the people who lived out on properties were able to get to school.

Quite often, when we talk about council roads, people in the city seem to take for granted the fact that they always have access to be able to get out and go to school or go to the shops whereas I can assure you, in country areas that has not been the case. When I look at the Roads to Recovery program and what it has delivered direct from the Commonwealth to local councils, I think it is tremendous. In my electorate alone, over the four-year period of the Roads to Recovery program, it will deliver an extra $23 million direct to local councils for their local road network. In fact, as there are two payments due before the end of June this year, that is directly putting about $2.8 million extra into the road network.

Last week I went out with the mayor of one of my local councils, the Guyra Shire Council, together with some of its councillors and engineers, to have a look at the work being done on many of the roads that were pinpointed years ago as desperately needing a gravel resheeting program. To stand there on the side of these roads while the trucks were rolling was incredible because you are physically seeing, for the first time, substantial works being done which will bring direct benefits to the people who live in those areas.

I pay tribute to the Guyra Shire Council, its mayor, Robyn Jackson, and its five councillors; to Geoff Brooks, the general manager, and his engineering staff, led by David Wolfendon; and to works engineer, Andrew Dance. I also take this opportunity to congratulate the staff of Guyra Shire Council, those who drive the trucks and the graders and those who provide the supervision for these works to be done, because they are rolling out a gravel resheeting program at about a kilometre per day. That is quite an achievement when you consider the old standards that people used to use. They are using a combination of their own day labour—which is, as I say, highly trained and very professional—and subcontractors, particularly with the trucks and their dozer work. To see the level of professionalism that one of their new grader drivers who has just started on the graders is bringing to the job is, I think, a credit to the whole staff.

Why I have taken the time to go through this today is that I believe that this has been one of the most significant programs that this government have been able to deliver for our road network, whether it is in the federal seat of New England or indeed the seat of the minister at the table, the Minister for Veterans' Affairs, the member for Maranoa—an enormous electorate. His seat borders my seat and I know that his councils have written to him expressing their appreciation for the extra funding and, as I say, mine have as well.

Mr Bruce Scott —It is not a boondoggle.

Mr St CLAIR —It is not a boondoggle at all. The Labor Party seem to think that country roads are something that nobody should look after and that funds should not be allocated to them. It is important that we recognise that there are people living on roads which often do not get their fair share of taxpayers' money. For example, I know that 4.9 kilometres of resheeting is being done on the Old Armidale Road by Guyra Shire Council in the electorate of New England. I know that people who travel that road to take their stock to market or in turn to receive superphosphate and other inputs to their farm certainly appreciate the fact that that work is being done. Brushy Creek Road is only a small road, but it is vitally important and the council has been able to do a gravel resheeting program in areas where it was very boggy. There has been $2,600 spent on that road. I am joined here by the member for Parkes who also has a keen interest in local council roads.

Mr O'Connor —Another endangered species!

Mr St CLAIR —That again shows that the Labor Party has no conception of what is happening in the country. The member for Parkes is also aware of the need to get this money paid directly to councils, not for it to be put back through the states. Jackson Road is to have $7,800 spent on it. The Moredum Dams Road is very important not only for the local industry but also for tourism. Under the Roads to Recovery program, $29,000 worth of work is going into that road alone. Junction Road is another one that carries a lot of traffic, $20,000; the Falls Road, $6,800; the Hilton Road, $5,100; and $28,000 worth of work is to go into Ramah Road, an enormous amount. As I look at the map of the shire and the way that the engineer has been able to split up this work—over the years I have travelled all those sections of road—I notice that the work covers the whole of the shire from the eastern side right through to the west and through to the Ben Lomond region.

People in my electorate in particular are just so pleased that the Howard-Anderson government has delivered substantial funds to our local council road networks. As we look at some of the larger shires in my electorate and the programs that they have undertaken, we see that Inverell Council has a very large area to look after. Under this program, they receive an extra $826,000 per year for the next four years. Their engineer, Greg Moran, and the mayor, Barry Johnston, have both taken great delight in advising me of council's readiness to get into the work, to get the gravel resheeting programs down and to get some new culverts in a lot of areas where they have been washed away or have been eroded over a period of time. Even in the smaller councils in my electorate, in Manilla for example, Paul McManus and his team have an extra $265,000 a year coming into their road network for the delivery of gravel resheeting programs. They were unable to complete some roads, as the funds they were receiving were insufficient.

I am not suggesting for one moment that we should stop at the end of this program. I believe it should be an ongoing program. I still do not believe that it is enough money to be spent on our local council road networks. What we have to do, though, is to put pressure on the New South Wales Minister for Transport, Carl Scully, and on Mr Bob Carr to get them to spend some of their money on the state road network. I have a road that actually runs right through the Guyra Shire Council, Main Road 135 or the Guyra to Ebor road, that is still unsealed—a major road. (Time expired)

Question resolved in the affirmative.