Transcript - Interview - 2BS Bathurst, Live and Local with Dusty Fitzpatrick

DUSTY FITZPATRICK: The Albanese Government is making local roads safer, with $4.4 billion available under the Roads to Recovery program over the next five years. NSW councils will receive $1.2 billion over the five years, an increase of $461 million. Minister for Regional Development, Local Government and Territories, Kristy McBain. Good afternoon.

KRISTY MCBAIN: Good afternoon, Dusty.

FITZPATRICK: Minister, thanks so much for your time this afternoon. Tell us a bit about how this funding will benefit local communities.

MCBAIN: The Roads to Recovery program goes to every council across the country. We've got 546 councils across the country. We don't need for people to apply for grants or go through application and acquittal processes. We don't need to use spreadsheets. It's literally going to every council across the country. In the Calare electorate, that's nearly $60 million over five years that will come to them, which is nearly a $20 million increase over that five years, which is huge.

FITZPATRICK: What motivated the decision to increase the funding for this program?

MCBAIN: It's really important that every local community has safer roads to drive on. We know people are using them, particularly in regional Australia, every single day, to get kids to and from school, to sporting events, to get ourselves to work, travelling for medical appointments. It's really important that we are working with councils so that they can deliver their priority road projects, and to make sure that they are maintaining the road networks that they have. Councils’ budgets are under pressure, so this is one way we can inject some dollars, particularly to roads, and we know that every person across our community will benefit from it.

FITZPATRICK: And could you tell us a bit about how the funding is actually allocated within different councils?

MCBAIN: It's a formulaic process, similar to financial assistance grants, which are also provided to councils. It's based off population and then road length. The biggest winners out of programs like these tend to be our regional and rural councils, who've got large road networks. Something that was really important to us was making sure those regional councils had more dollars in their pockets to deal with the length of the road that they've got. A number of our regional councils have been impacted by natural disasters and heavy rain events in particular. It’s also an easy way that we can help the bottom line, and get more work happening in those disaster-prone councils.

FITZPATRICK: In addition to the Roads to Recovery program, the Black Spot program and the Safer Local Roads and Infrastructure Program are also receiving funding boosts. How will these programs complement each other when it comes to road safety?

MCBAIN: We've increased the Road Black Spot funding from $110 million a year to $150 million a year, and we are looking at how councils use those crash data points to show how they can improve the road black spots that we've got in our communities. The Safer Local Roads and Infrastructure Program is going to be a new program. $200 million a year, and we'll get those guidelines out as soon as possible, after we go through consultation with some of our local councils. As you can see, the main focus is making sure that we've got safer local roads to drive on. No matter where you are in the country, doing it through Roads to Recovery is easy. It goes to every council, which means every community gets an uplift. The other two programs are grant funded programs, and we want to see people using the data they've got in their local communities to deal with those prolific crash spots.

FITZPATRICK: Minister, just looking ahead, what are the long-term goals, or I suppose, objectives for road safety and infrastructure in the regions under the Albanese Government?

MCBAIN: For a number of years now, there has not been enough emphasis put on the data that we have available from states and territories. We've put some money in the Budget to make sure that we can align that data from across the country, make it easier for local councils to have access to it, and make sure that we're using it to improve the roads that actually need improving. Moving away from the popular project of the day. We really want to be dealing with roads that are known crash spots, and really do have an impact on our community. That's the aim for us, making sure that we are using road safety data, and getting every council across the country on the same page about trying to uplift all our roads.

FITZPATRICK: Minister, thank you so much for your time this afternoon.

MCBAIN: Great to be with you.