Council considers covering road closure costs for RSLs

The cost of road closures for the next local Remembrance Day and Anzac Day services will again be covered by Latrobe City Council, if a motion is supported on Monday night.

Councillor Dale Harriman will move the motion relating to the services for the next financial year.

It comes after Traralgon RSL last year revealed signage and contractor costs to close roads for the 2014 Anzac Day services in Traralgon and Glengarry cost $10,500 – money that could have been spent on veteran welfare.

Council paid for local road closures on Anzac Day 2015, initially as a one-off for the centenary commemoration, however decided to continue that arrangement for last Remembrance Day and this year’s Anzac Day.

“While it cost us just under $20,000 last (financial) year, if we don’t fund it, it comes out of money put aside for veterans and their families,” Cr Harriman said.

“The veterans have earned it. They’ve earned the right to march down the street and not have to pay for it.”

Cr Harriman’s motion stops short of a longer-term commitment to pay for traffic management, but states council will continue to lobby the state and federal governments to cover the ongoing costs of the services.

Traralgon RSL president Maurie Harrison said the RSL could not afford the cost of road closures and if it was forced to pay, this would affect the Anzac Day march.

Mr Harrison said he believed it was the Federal Government’s funding responsibility, because they were Australia-wide services.

“Anzac Day is a community event, we are only the custodians of the service,” Mr Harrison said.

Last year council called on the State Government to cut red tape associated with road closures and insurance in a bid to encourage volunteer arrangements, rather than hiring expensive contractors.

Traralgon RSL used to pay the Ulysses Motorcycle Club $500 to carry out the road closure, with that money going back into the community.

However, Mr Harrison said that arrangement ceased in recent years because the club was told it needed public liability insurance to continue to help out, forcing the RSL to employ a contractor.

Prior to council stepping in, the Moe road closures were carried out voluntarily by a local road-sealing company and the RSL estimated if it weren’t for this arrangement it faced costs in the thousands.

President Ray Watson said he wanted council to fund the closures on a continuing basis.

Morwell RSL also had a volunteer arrangement, and president Bruce Jeffrey said he believed it was the State Government’s funding responsibility as it was the State Government rules that made the task so costly.

A State Government spokesperson said event organisers needed to submit a traffic management plan to “demonstrate that participants and other road users will be safe and that public transport and detour routes have been considered”.

They said costs would vary depending on the plan and the level of insurance required.

“Our veterans deserve the greatest respect and their legacy ought to be safeguarded for future generations,” the spokesperson said.

“That’s why we fund a long list of initiatives that pay tribute to Australia’s wartime legacy and ensure the needs of servicemen and women are met.”

Federal Member for Gippsland Darren Chester said that in April last year he sought advice from then-Veterans Affairs Minister Michael Ronaldson about the Commonwealth covering the cost of traffic management.

“Mr Ronaldson advised me the Australian Government has no jurisdiction over local government authorities who have responsibility for local traffic management,” Mr Chester said.

“The Minister said these costs lie with local government authorities, and that the Department of Veterans Affairs was unable to assist with this request.”

Mr Chester said the Federal Government provided annual grants to RSL and other eligible organisations to commemorate Anzac and Remembrance Day, including more than $120,000 in grants to various local groups including Latrobe City Council over the past three years.