Claims cuts to impact on roads

VICROADS has denied claims Gippsland will be affected by State Government moves to halve road resurfacing funds and cut hundreds of VicRoads staff statewide.

The State Opposition warned this week VicRoads would close its Road Safety and Network Access division, cut 450 staff from its department and halve road resurfacing funding, a move it said would impact on all regions.

Shadow Minister for Roads and Road Safety Luke Donnellan said Gippsland roads had already deteriorated “to an appalling state” and the State Government needed to ensure the “appropriate funding” was “provided to fix these roads”.

Latrobe City Council recreation, culture and community infrastructure manager Grantley Switzer said council would meet with senior VicRoads managers tomorrow to assess the impact reported cuts would “have on the local community”.

He predicted if local roads deteriorated further as a result of VicRoads budget reductions council could expect a rise in community enquiries.

Mr Switzer said it was difficult for council to explain to ratepayers the difference between council and VicRoads-maintained roads “so we get a large number of calls we have to refer to VicRoads”.

Council was concerned the “physical presentation of (Latrobe) City” could be compromised by potential cuts to VicRoads’ maintenance budget.

Mr Donnellan said the VicRoads budget would be “gutted” through job and funding cuts as well as division closures.

He claimed the “resurfacing budget” had been cut by 60 per cent in regional Victoria.

A report in The Age this week said VicRoads expected to resurface just 3.2 per cent of Victoria’s roads this year rather than the seven per cent identified in a previous strategy.

VicRoads regional director eastern region Sebastian Motta hosed down those claims, saying the money allocated to this region was comparable to “every other year” and that a “small amount” of local job cuts had resulted from voluntary departures.

When asked about what next year’s budget forecast for the region, a VicRoads spokesperson said that was unknown.

Referring to claims VicRoads would scrap its road safety division, Mr Motta said “all of the road safety functions carried out by VicRoads will continue under the new structure”.

“The focus on improving road safety will now be embedded right across the organisation, with road safety programs and measures delivered in a more strategic, coordinated way, overseen by a new executive-level position of road safety coordinator, backed up by a director of road safety strategy,” he said.

“Funding distribution to regions varies annually depending on the needs across the state.

“This means that, from year to year, funding for a region may increase or decrease depending on how works are prioritised across Victoria.”

Mr Motta also said a newly-announced $45 million repair and restore package would “address the poor condition of some of Victoria’s roads due to ongoing wet weather over the last two years”.