2 June 2024

Snowy Monaro Council proposes to abandon maintenance of 'low traffic' roads

| Morgan Kenyon
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Smiths Road

Hundreds of Snowy Monaro residents have expressed confusion and outrage online, following proposed service changes in their council’s 2022-2026 delivery program. Photo: Snowy Monaro Regional Council.

Snowy Monaro Regional Council (SMRC) recently proposed discontinuing maintenance on multiple public roads across the shire, in a move to cut costs and increase revenue.

Open to community feedback until 3 June, the proposal comes in the form of a draft revision to council’s 2022-2026 delivery program, which suggests non-regulatory ‘nice to have’ services should be reduced to allow for a more balanced budget.

Multiple changes to service deliveries have been put forward, but local residents are primarily concerned with council’s plans to effectively abandon public roads with low traffic volume.

If the changes go ahead, they could affect thousands of people living, working and travelling throughout the region.

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Hundreds of Snowy Monaro residents flocked to Facebook community noticeboards to express their frustration. Michelago Community Association member Kerry Rooney said this was for good reason and encouraged them to submit their thoughts to SMRC’s Your Say forum.

“As a resident of the region who lives on an unsealed road, like so many of us, I find it appalling that road maintenance could be abandoned while other costs, such as running four offices for one amalgamated council, are supported,” she said.

“The general conclusion on social media is that most of our roads are already bad, with properties failing to sell, cars being damaged and people having accidents. How much worse can it get?

“Some people are very angry, others feel they can’t trust council any longer. Ensuring school buses can safely transport our children, ambulance, police and fire services can deal with emergencies, and people can get to work, should be a top priority.”

Proposed changes to public roads across the Snowy Monaro region

SMRC’s proposed changes to road-related maintenance came as a shock to many residents. Image: Region.

SMRC councillor Luke Williamson said a lack of authentic engagement with the Snowy Monaro community might be why they were so unhappy with the proposal.

“Council tends to focus on brand positioning more than authentic communication, which has created distrust and that is where this online discourse has come from,” he said.

“There has also been a lack of proper analysis from a logistical standpoint. For example, low usage of a road may not reflect its importance in getting farmers’ harvests and livestock to market. We need to consider the economic impact of policies like these, not just the potential cost savings.

“Council should focus on meeting the basics – water, sewerage, roads – before redirecting funds to other projects.”

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SMRC Mayor Chris Hanna could not confirm how estimated traffic volume was calculated, who would be expected to maintain roads if not council, or what would happen if roads became impassable. He did stress that council will continue to lobby for State and Federal Government funding for road maintenance.

“We have 1700 km of unsealed roads and 900-plus km of sealed roads to look after. Unfortunately, we can’t afford to maintain all of them without additional funding – we have to live within our means and this is what that looks like,” he said.

“I cannot say how likely these changes are to go through as proposed, but the community has been very vocal and provided strong feedback about the importance of their local roads, so we are considering service changes carefully.

“It’s also worth mentioning ‘roads’ doesn’t mean the entire stretch of road. Council may maintain the first 10 km of a road, but not the last two, if only a few residents use it.”

Council’s efforts to collect and share data on specific roads, lengths of road and numbers of residents potentially affected by these service changes are ongoing.

Snowy Monaro residents are encouraged to provide online feedback on SMRC’s draft Integrated Planning and Reporting documents before submissions close on 3 June.

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Is this a sign of Australia’s decline to third world mendicant? Ee should be IMPROVING roads, and building new roads.

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