Councils in western NSW have united in their concern over the state of regional and local roads and roads funding at the Annual Conference of the Western Division Councils of NSW in Broken Hill, raising it with various Ministers and calling for continued action.


Speaking at the conference, President of the Shires Association of NSW, Cr Ray Donald, said that quality, well maintained, safe roads are essential for transporting passengers, produce and livestock across NSW and the funding provided for roads by State and Federal Governments should reflect the importance of such infrastructure.


"Local roads are the primary pieces of infrastructure in any community, used by every member of those communities and are essential in connecting townships and regional centres."


"The ever-growing backlog of road works in NSW will not fix itself and an assurance of direct Federal funding beyond 2014 through the Roads to Recovery program is vital to improving local road networks."


"This is why Constitutional Recognition of Local Government and clarity in Federal Government funding arrangements is imperative. We must secure the financial viability and the future of councils and their communities, and ensure adequate funding of essential infrastructure and services."


"The Shires Association has been working with the Minister for Roads and Ports, the Hon Duncan Gay, to explore options for the transport of livestock and other commodities on NSW roads."


"The Western Division of Councils also called on State Government Road Maintenance Council Contracts (RMCCs) to be maintained. There is concern that these contracts, which are most important to local and regional economies, may be threatened by being opened up to private companies."


Responding to the Murray-Darling Basin Plan continues to be a key issue for rural councils, and was discussed at length at the Western Division Conference.


"The storage of water when it's plentiful needs to be a priority for the Murray-Darling Basin Authority, and we need to develop infrastructure in order to lessen the financial and socio-economic pressure in local communities," said Cr Donald.


"We are calling for a comprehensive and localised socio-economic impact analysis, and structural adjustment assistance to ensure funds remain in support of regional economies."
"We also seek a guarantee of town water supplies, to ensure communities, particularly in regional and rural areas, can maintain adequate living standards."


"Other key issues discussed at the conference include escalating council contributions to the Rural Fire Service and the need to recognise 'drought' as a natural disaster, so that people who depend on the land for their livelihood can access much needed assistance when the going gets tough."


The Western Division Councils include Balranald, Bogan, Bourke, Brewarrina, Broken Hill, Carrathool, Central Darling, Cobar, Hay, Lachlan, Moree, Walgett and Wentworth.