The NSW Government has established a panel to identify up to 15,000 kilometres of council-managed roads in rural and regional areas to hand back to the state, easing the burden on local councils and ratepayers.
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Deputy premier and minister for regional NSW John Barilaro said the panel would conduct a review of the road classification framework and recommend roads for transfer to the state government.
"This is about delivering on our election commitment to take the financial burden off local councils and ratepayers, and builds on the record investment we are making in roads in the bush," Mr Barilaro said.
"Everyone in a regional area has a story about a road that isn't up to scratch and turns their knuckles white when driving on it - and that isn't good enough.
"This project is even more important now, with the drought and bushfires heavily impacting regional councils. Road maintenance is something they shouldn't have to manage on their own."
Minister for regional transport and roads Paul Toole said former NRMA president Wendy Machin would chair the panel and would be supported by five other members with expertise and experience in roads, transport, engineering, local government and other sectors.
The members of the panel are:
- Wendy Machin
- Peter Duncan
- Jillian Kilby
- John Roydhouse
- Michael Kilgariff
- Peter Tegart
Mr Toole said the project was about ensuring a safe and modern road network for generations to come.
"The demands on our roads are changing. As we open up more regional centres and provide better connectivity across the state, it is vital that the system for managing and maintaining the network is supporting local communities, freight operators and motorists," Mr Toole said.
"The NSW Government is already making an unprecedented investment in our regional roads and will build on that by taking back the road maintenance costs for up to 15,000km of roads, easing pressure on local councils and ratepayers.
"The independent panel will provide advice on which roads should be transferred to the State and how to prioritise them."
Mr Toole said the panel would conduct extensive consultations with councils and other key stakeholders, and was not expected to deliver its report until July 2021 at the earliest.
"This is a monumental task, with more than 180,000 kilometres of roads across the state's entire road network and a complicated funding and maintenance program. It's critical we give the panel sufficient time to talk to stakeholders and do a thorough review," Mr Toole said.
The panel is expected to meet this month and will prepare a discussion paper and consultation strategy for public release shortly afterwards.
The draft Terms of Reference will be distributed directly to councils for their consideration and feedback.