Featured series by Max Davies
Mitchell Shire Mayor Fiona Stevens says the council actively advocates to highlight road issues to the Department of Transport and Planning, DTP, but maintenance was becoming increasingly difficult.
“Our road network and maintenance teams face escalating demands due to our ever-increasing road network and the climatic and development impacts and are now required to do much more with the funding currently available,” she said.
“Increased financial support from state and federal governments is essential to get on top of these challenges because local government cannot fund or manage alone.”
Cr Stevens said council was focused on the delivery of major infrastructure projects to support the growing region, such as the Kilmore Bypass, Watson Street Interchange, and upgrading Old Sydney Road as a possible future north-south arterial.
“We consistently present the concerns and suggestions voiced by our community to the DTP for roads they hold responsibility for. It is imperative to continue urging the DTP to address their roads that are currently causing major issues within our community,” she said.
“Additionally, we are faced with a pressing reality: our current rate base is limited to those who currently live with us, however we are attempting to provide for both current needs and the demands for future infrastructure and roads.”
With 300 separate repairs in the Mitchell Shire from last year’s floods, the total repair bill was an estimated $4 million but only $2 million has been spent to date.
According to a report tabled in 2021 by the Victorian Auditor-General’s Office, ‘councils manage local roads, which comprise 87 per cent of the state’s road network’, while ‘local roads represent 10 per cent of council expenditure’.
Mitchell Shire Council and VicRoads are two different road authorities responsible for vastly different road networks – council’s more than 1400km network of local sealed and unsealed roads, and VicRoads’ statewide network of major arterials, highways, and freeways.
The DTP – according to its own Road Design Note published in April 2021 – must endeavor that the road and road environment supports ‘a vision of zero deaths and serious injury for all road users’ and ‘the wellbeing of the community is not adversely affected’.
Repairs, along with the maintenance and renewal of council roads, are carried out in line with council’s Road Management Plan, RMP, which outlines thresholds for inspections, defects and rectifications for all council-managed roads.
For potholes, the 2021 version of the RMP outlined an intervention level of greater than 300 milimetres in width and greater than 75 milimetres in depth, with a rectification period within two and six weeks depending on road type and use.
To view the full RMP, visit bit.ly/3tX4BuH.
Cr Stevens said maintained local roads were largely in compliance with the RMP but understood the frustration damaged roads were causing residents.
“Pothole repairs were recently completed on William Street, Wallan and council is comfortable this road currently complies with its RMP,” he said.
“We hear and understand the community’s concerns and ask that people drive to conditions as we work to improve the condition of local roads.”
Council does offer monetary compensation for damage to vehicles if it is deemed negligent for its management of local roads.
However in all cases, the first $1580 of any claim is borne by the motorist – as specified by the Road Management Act 2004.
Member for Northern Metropolitan Region Evan Mulholland said Mitchell Shire had been ‘left behind’ in road maintenance funding and called on Premier Jacinta Allan to step up and rectify the issue for regional roads.
“Every week, my office receives calls from residents across my region asking for assistance with claims against VicRoads. It’s a sad story to hear that our cars need to be roadworthy, but our roads aren’t car-worthy,” he said.
“The new premier needs to step up and fill the black hole on road funding that her predecessor left behind. Victoria deserves better.”
Residents are encouraged to report defects and incidents at www.mitchellshire.vic.gov.au/reportit or by calling 5734 6200, as well as report issues to the DTP by calling 13 11 70 or visiting www.vicroads.vic.gov.au/traffic-and-road-use/report-a-road-issue.
To view an interactive map outlining the ownership of all Mitchell Shire Council and DTP roads, visit bit.ly/3FJS7cm.
Alternatively, visit www.mitchellshire.vic.gov.au/services/roads/who-manages-roads-in-our-shire.