Transcript - Radio interview - ABC Newcastle and NSW with Paul Turton

PAUL TURTON [HOST]: Good morning, Paul is my name and this is ABC Newcastle and New South Wales. Thanks for having us on at your place today, it’s 16 past 10. How are the roads looking around your area? You won’t have to go far, of course, to find a pothole in most locations around New South Wales. Councils across the state, of course, have been crying out for more funding to help them manage the workload and the Federal Government says some new funding will certainly help with that. Kristy McBain is the Federal Minister for Regional Development, Local Government and Territories and is my guest this morning. Minister, thank you so much for coming on.

KRISTY MCBAIN [MINISTER]: Good morning, Paul, how are you?

TURTON: Yeah, I’m excellent thank you. There’s been a lot of focus, of course, in recent times on redirection of infrastructure spending. A lot of projects, of course, got the cut, they were terminated or at least delayed but clearly roads remains a big priority, though.

MCBAIN: No matter which community you live in across this country, you will have noticed that the roads have been deteriorating due to a number of the weather events that we’ve had, from drought to bushfires, floods to multiple storm events. Our road network has absolutely copped it and we want to work with local councils to deliver better local roads, no matter where you are, which is why we’ve put a significant injection into the Roads to Recovery Program, the Black Spot Program, and we’ve combined a couple of other programs. We have the Bridges Renewal Program and the Heavy Vehicle Safety and Productivity Program in a new, Safer Local Roads and Infrastructure Program and increased the funding on that as well.

TURTON: Minister, how does road spending work? I know that some of the roads are managed by local government, some are managed by the state, and of course, the Federal Government looks after the major thoroughfares and provides funding, of course, to those other areas of government. What’s the process?

MCBAIN: About 75 per cent of roads across the country are in the control of our local councils. All of those local roads we drive on to access sport and school and to get to and from work are usually local roads. Some of our major connector roads, including highways, are obviously in the domain of the State Government and the Federal Government contributes funding to a lot of those main thoroughfares. Every year we provide $500 million in Roads to Recovery funding to councils across the country. It’s delivered via a formula which takes into account the length of road network that a council has. We’re increasing those funds from $500 million a year to $1 billion a year, in recognition of all of the work that councils are doing and we want them to do more.

TURTON: So, that’ll happen from, what, July next year?

MCBAIN: That’s right. The funding will step up from July next year, and will continue to increase over the forward estimates till we get to $1 billion. We don’t want to overstimulate our economy with a huge chunk of money straight up. It will be done in a stepped process.

TURTON: Minister, how do people who don’t like their local road go about getting it fixed? Is council the first port of call?

MCBAIN: Absolutely. It’s really important that you do go and talk to your local councils. Councils will give us the priority projects they’re working on as part of Roads to Recovery, but local councils, through your elected councillors, determine which roads need to be prioritised. It’s really important that communities do engage with councils on those roads that they want maintained.

TURTON: Minister, I presume you were in there batting for regional communities during the discussions around infrastructure spending. You and your federal colleagues, of course, have reallocated portions of the budget and reassigned priorities. Are you pleased with the outcomes that you got for your portfolio?

MCBAIN: The funding increases that local councils will now achieve under this reviewed IIP process, Roads to Recovery, the Black Spot Funding program and the new, Safer Local Roads and Infrastructure Program are literally in response to the advocacy we’ve had from councils across the country. Since I became the Minister 18 months ago, I’ve met with over 250 councils across the country. I’ve been to every state and territory local council conference and it’s really important that we deliver for communities right across the country, big and small. These programs that we’ve increased the funding on will do exactly that.

TURTON: Minister, I appreciate you coming on our program today to explain your approach to regional roads. Thanks.

MCBAIN: Thank you very much.

TURTON: Kristy McBain is the Federal Minister for Regional and Development, Local Government and Territories. That funding will ramp up over the next four years, commencing July 1, $500 million will become $1 billion for roads by the end of the forward estimates.