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Addressing the multi-billion-dollar repair bill needed to fix Australia’s rural roads is a critical investment in the economic viability and safety of our nation’s regions and agricultural industries 


More than $22 billion is needed just to bring the failing network to a safe and adequate capacity, as highlighted by the Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) State of the Assets report released at the National Press Club in Canberra today. 


The report lays bare the fact that roads in regional farming communities are in urgent need of repair – identifying 23 per cent of the 678,000-kilometre road network as being in a poor condition or having poor function or poor capacity, with billions of dollars of investment needed.  


Australia’s 23,500 grain farms rely heavily on this road network to quickly and efficiently transport grain to port. The cost of freight is widely identified as the largest cost to grain growers, with CSIRO TranSIT modelling indicating transport costs the grain industry $2.1 billion per annum


Grain Producers Australia (GPA) Chair Barry Large said rural and remote communities are at the mercy of local, state and federal governments, with cooperation needed to address this country-wide issue. The Western Australian grower said his state was lucky that large parts of the road network were in good condition, particularly when compared to the rest of the country. 


“Investment in roads can never been too much in my opinion, we should always be striving to improve on what we have, and I cannot overstate how important road safety is,” he said. 

Poor road surfaces, disjointed and indirect freight routes and bridges with weight restrictions have financial and time costs to growers. All the while, grain production is increasing year on year, averaging 45.5 million tonnes of grain annually for the past 10 years, worth around $15.5 billion in gross value to the economy. 


GPA Southern Region Director Andrew Weidemann farms in Rupanyup in the Yarriambiack Shire in Victoria, where a major freight corridor that is severely lacking in road quality and capacity to service this function is in dire need of investment. 

“Local government-controlled country roads are the vital link for grain freight movement across regional Australia and have been poorly funded for decades,” he said. 

“The grain and livestock industry provide significant contributions from fuel and government taxes, and it is time that these collected revenues are allocated to where the most urgent action is needed to maintain sustainable industries.” 

The National Grain Freight Strategy, released recently by GrainGrowers, highlights a need to balance funding obligations across not only federal and state jurisdictions, but across metropolitan and regional councils based on network size and economic impact. 

GPA Southern Director Mark Schilling is a grower on the Yorke Peninsula in South Australia and councils in his local region are currently looking at heavy vehicle movement management such as banning trucks longer than 19 metres from driving at night; speed reductions to 30 kilometres an hour, and use of rotating amber hazard beacons on high-risk roads; daylight-driving-only permits; and no permits for driving on high-risk roads in wet weather. 

"Australia's farmers are some of the biggest contributors to council rates and taxes and we need a commitment that our road networks will be safe and well-maintained,” Mr Schilling said. 


“Unfortunately, we’re having to navigate increasing restrictions in our freight movements when we should be talking about funding and future-proofing our roads to support industry." 


GPA Northern Region Director Matthew Madden said the maintenance of rural roads was also key to the wellbeing of rural communities. 

“The importance of continued maintenance and upgrades cannot be understated, our regional communities it is critical that road infrastructure keep pace with our on-farm efficiency progression,” he said.  


“Our regions deserve roads that are safe for families, able to be traversed in most weather and not result in damage to their vehicles. These are basic needs to ensure our communities thrive.” 


Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) State of the Assets 2024 report highlights 

  • Replacement cost of sealed roads in poor condition, or infrastructure with significant defects, currently runs to $19.2b and unsealed roads, the vast majority in farming and remote communities, $3.9b 

  • 23 per cent of the 678,000 kilometre road network rated as being in a poor condition or having poor function or poor capacity 

  • In 2022-23, 82,000 kms of roads damaged across Victoria, NSW, Queensland and South Australia fracturing connectivity with crucial freight routes and rail links 





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