PLANS to scrap outsourcing of road maintenance in favour of private contractors will hit northern region local councils, like Tamworth’s, hard.
Tamworth Regional Council alone stands to lose almost $4 million a year in income should the contacts only be offered to private operators.
Earlier this week the O’Farrell government confirmed its plans to outsource road maintenance contracts to private operators, instead of keeping them with local councils.
In the 2011/2012 financial year TRC was contracted to undertake approximately $3.9 million in road works for the NSW government.
One of the biggest projects last year was the installation of traffic lights at the intersection of Bridge and Belmore streets.
Tamworth Regional Council’s manager of infrastructure planning, Warren Faulkner, said at the moment road maintenance council contracts (RMCC) were used by Roads and Maritime Services to have maintenance and capital upgrade works undertaken on state roads by local councils.
“In the TRC area the Manilla Rd from Tamworth to the boundary with Gwydir Shire Council north of Barraba, the New England Highway between Burgmanns Lane and the 80km/h signs east of Nemingha as well as the Oxley Highway west of Tamworth to the boundary with Gunnedah Shire Council and east of Bendemeer to the boundary with Walcha Shire Council are all part of the RMCC, a total length of approximately 220km,” he said.
“A similar amount of work has already been earmarked for the current financial year.”
Mr Faulkner said about $900,000 of the 2011/2012 total was for maintenance work such as repairing potholes, replacing knocked down signs and damaged guard rails, slashing road shoulders and clearing out culverts.
Mr Faulkner said these works were undertaken at cost.
“About $3 million of the yearly total was for capital works such as the upgrading of approximately three kilometres of Manilla Rd on the southern side of Manilla, asphalt resurfacing work on Bridge St between Tamworth Shoppingworld and Belmore St,” he said.
“The installation of traffic lights at the Bridge and Belmore St intersection as well as asphalt resurfacing work in Murray St – New England Highway – between Peel St and Marius St.”
Mr Faulkner said TRC used about $500,000 in labour costs and $300,000 worth of plant to undertake the RMCCs work.
He said council or a private contractor undertaking work for Roads and Maritime Services must meet minimum specifications.
“However, while council crews may be working under contract for RMS on state roads, the roads are in our area and we care for them like they are our own,” he said.
“A very real risk in outsourcing the work on these roads is the lack of ownership and advocacy for these roads that will cease to exist on behalf of the local community.”
Mr Faulkner said council also puts any of the profits made on capital works back into infrastructure upgrades on the road network.
“This will also be lost with profits more than likely to be spent outside of the region,” he said.
“The decision, if it goes ahead, will have a negative impact on the council and the local community.”
Roads minister Duncan Gay said he was planning to outsource road maintenance contracts – and remove them from the regional councils that employ local people to carry out the work.
Member of the Opposition, Sophie Cotsis, said the plans would hurt councils and the regional areas they support.
“Local government is an employer of choice in many regional communities; however the O’Farrell government is taking that choice away,” Ms Cotsis said.