CANBERRA, AAP – Unsealed roads across rural and remote Australia are set to benefit from a new $150 million pilot program.
The new program will fund 80 to 100 per cent of council projects to resurface roads, remove dangerous corners and manage vegetation for sections of road longer than 20 kilometres.
Acting Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce said the program would make rural travel safer with the rate of remote road deaths 10 times greater than in major cities.
“Many of these remote roads haven’t been touched since the Great Depression,” he said.
“We recognise the costs of upgrading rural and regional roads are often prohibitive for local governments.”
The decision has been welcomed by Australia’s peak motoring body, which said the program would correct deficiencies within the draft national road safety strategy 2021-2030.
Australian Automobile Association managing director Michael Bradley highlighted the disproportionate death toll in rural and regional Australia compared to metropolitan areas.
“Regional roads… need to remain a significant focus of efforts to reduce Australia’s worsening road toll,” he said.
“COVID is causing sustained regional population growth, so the federal government is right to focus upon infrastructure spending that will save lives, stimulate regional jobs, and ensure safer regional tourism.”
Mr Bradley criticised the draft strategy for not recommending all regional roads be improved throughout this decade and for overlooking the need for timely road safety data.
“This is a welcome first step but much more needs to be done, particularly in the area of road safety data collection and reporting,” he said.
The program’s guidelines will be released by the end of the year.