In a member’s statement in parliament recently I raised the issue of the ongoing cost to councils of maintaining sealed and unsealed roads.
Last week I was in Tallangatta, in the Towong shire, as part of my regular visits to the towns in the Benambra district. It came a day after a public meeting about the impact of losing 150 jobs from Murray Goulburn’s nearby Kiewa milk processing plant.
We all know, and particularly in my area, that country folk are resilient types, but the impact of this closure is far reaching. It is not just about jobs; it will also impact infrastructure. Country roads are collapsing under a state government that fails to provide enough money to rural councils to maintain gravel and bitumen road networks that in this case are more than 1200 kilometres long. Towong would welcome the return of the coalition’s annual $1 million Country Roads and Bridges Fund.
The Kiewa plant closure puts more pressure on roads not just in the Upper Murray area but also in Wodonga and Indigo shires. Those roads will now conservatively carry about 5000 additional milk trucks as they take about 165 million litres of milk from the alpine valleys to Cobram each year. That is approximately an extra 28 heavy combination vehicles alone each day, every day, through the narrow and dangerous main street of Rutherglen, which is waiting for its heavy vehicle bypass. That excludes the brought-in feed and all other road freight. I am aware that Indigo shire is looking at adding a back road to carry the trucks around Rutherglen, but it fears the cost of this extra burden will now be beyond that carriageway. It will certainly be beyond these councils’ limited road budgets. The funding that is available to them should not be sent off to back roads.
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