1. What is the purpose of the Road Classification Review and Transfer?
The Road Classification Review and Transfer is made up of two initiatives being delivered as one project:
• Road Classification Review
• Regional Road Transfer.
As part of business as usual activities, road classifications across the State need to be evaluated on a regular basis. Road managers periodically need the opportunity to seek reclassification where the function or usage pattern of a road has changed, perhaps due to the construction of new transport infrastructure or changes in population density. This process will ensure that roads are being appropriately managed and funded, in line with the role they play in the network.
The transfer of up to 15,000 kilometres of regional roads to State management aims to lighten the load on regional and rural councils who are finding the maintenance of their council owned regional roads difficult or even unmanageable. This class of road has broader significance for the State, which is reflected in the financial assistance provided by government to councils for their maintenance. However, councils have made representations to government over a number of years to ask for further relief with some of these roads. The return of certain Regional Roads to State management will ensure they are able to be maintained in line with their significance to the broader network, and in a way that supports the social and economic health of communities across the State.
The overall purpose of the project is to contribute to a better managed, contemporary road network for NSW, with benefits that include supporting regional growth, ensuring the funding available to maintain our roads is appropriately distributed, and promoting healthy communities through place-making and engaging with other forms of transport.
2. Which councils are eligible to make submissions for road reclassification?
All councils across NSW are invited to participate in the Road Classification Review. This means providing feedback on the policy principles that decide how roads are classified as State, Regional or Local. It also means that every council in NSW will have the opportunity to submit individual roads to be reclassified between any of these categories.
Submissions may also be made by Transport for NSW. These submissions will be evaluated against the published criteria by the Independent Panel.
3. Which councils are eligible to make submissions for Regional Road transfer?
Eligibility has been determined based on Restart NSW boundaries. A list of councils eligible to submit their council owned regional roads for transfer is Appendix 1 to this paper. It includes all councils outside Greater Sydney, Newcastle and Wollongong.
The majority of NSW’s regional roads are located outside metropolitan areas, although a small number are located within metropolitan areas. Where metropolitan councils believe their council owned regional roads are no longer performing as Regional Roads, and are therefore receiving inadequate funding, they will be able to submit to have them reclassified, but cannot be considered for transfer.
Submissions may also be made by Transport for NSW. These submissions will be evaluated by the Independent Panel against the published criteria and taking into consideration the views of stakeholders affected by the proposal, as with all other submissions.
4. How will the project be impacted by COVID-19?
All parties – including the Independent Panel and the Minister – are acutely aware of the unprecedented circumstances now faced Australia-wide due to the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. This will impact the planned consultation activities of the Panel.
With that said, there is determination to continue to drive this important project forward and obtain results for road managers and road users across NSW.
The Independent Panel, supported by an interdepartmental advisory group, is now considering options to adjust the consultation schedule/plan to reflect these new circumstances, while still giving all councils an opportunity to put their views in full. This may include video conferencing and webinars, plus the existing channels of phone and email. Measures will be based on the best advice from our communications specialists.
Information will be distributed directly to councils wherever possible, as well as through bodies such as Office of Local Government and Local Government NSW, and will be made available on the website.
5. What assistance is available for bushfire, drought or flood-affected councils?
The Independent Panel and NSW Government acknowledge that many council areas have experienced and may currently be experiencing hardship associated with drought or bushfires.
The goal of the project is to improve conditions for councils and road users around the State. For this reason, care will be taken not to unduly increase workloads in affected areas.
Councils who expect to have difficulty meeting submission timelines or drafting submissions are encouraged to contact the Panel Secretariat at their earliest convenience.
6. Will existing arrangements under Road Maintenance Council Contracts (RMCCs) be maintained?
The Panel is not currently tasked with reviewing contractual maintenance arrangements on the road network. Its focus will be road classifications, management responsibilities and funding allocations.
The recommendations of the Independent Panel will be based on sound research and consultation. They will aim to promote the values and priorities of the Future Transport 2056 Strategy, including a commitment to a strong economy and successful places.
The Panel acknowledges that the RMCCs are important to local councils, to ensure strong economies, local employment and capable local road maintenance crews. The Panel will ensure consideration is given to maintaining local employment in roads maintenance works, such as through RMCC and direct employment by councils, and supporting economic growth in the regions.
7. What are the economic and planning principles of the Future Transport 2056 Strategy?
The Future Transport 2056 Strategy is a 40-year vision for NSW’s transport system. The six outcomes underpinning the strategy are:
1. Customer focused
2. Successful places
3. A strong economy
4. Safety and performance
5. Accessible services
Future Transport 2056 Strategy can be downloaded here.
The work of the Independent Panel will also align with other government policies and plans, including the Heavy Freight Vehicle Access Policy Framework, the Road Safety Plan and other State and national frameworks either existing or in development.
8. What impact will the review and transfer have on State and Federal Government funding sources for councils?
The Independent Panel does not have any authority to make recommendations about Federal Government funding allocations.
Transfer of a council owned regional road to State management may result in a commensurate reduction in Block Grant funding or any other funding attached to that road which correctly sits with the road manager.
Reclassification may also lead to reallocation of funds in cases where a road attracts different funding streams based on its classification, or where the road manager changes through classification, or both.
However, the overall level of funding is outside the Terms of Reference for the Independent Panel and will be a matter for the government.
9. Will roads being reclassified or transferred be brought up to standard before they are reclassified or in a specified timeframe after transfer?
The implementation process is a matter for government. The Independent Panel will identify individual roads to recommend for reclassification or transfer; make recommendations for a suitable timeline to implement changes; and estimate the financial impact to councils of its recommendations.
The condition of roads returning to State management will be assessed in terms of the standard required for the road to play its role in the network.
Where the cost to the State government of rehabilitation is significant, a prioritisation process will take place to ensure works are carried out where they are most needed as a first order.
Where repairs or increases in the standard of a road by the State government are deemed necessary, it may not be possible to carry out repairs immediately.
It is expected that councils will continue current maintenance standards on all roads for which they are currently the road manager, including roads that are submitted for reclassification or transfer, and until a subject road is formally transferred to the responsibility of another party. This includes the continuation of current funding arrangements, such as the Block Grant. There is no requirement for councils to increase their standard of maintenance on any road prior to or subsequent to its reclassification or transfer.
10. What opportunity will councils and other stakeholders have to provide input into the project?
The Independent Panel values input from all customers and stakeholders, including all types of road users, councils and industry.
As has been outlined above, the mode of consultation for the Independent Panel must now be revised to accommodate changed circumstances due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Technology will be utilised as far as possible to facilitate live meetings with the Panel.
Further, the Panel is committed to providing a variety of mechanisms through which feedback can be provided, including via the website, by email, and by phone or video, and will make every effort to accommodate the individual needs of any interested stakeholder. If you would like to discuss any other mode for the submission of feedback, please contact the Secretariat in the first instance.
A consultation schedule is outlined in this paper. Any issues or concerns with this plan or schedule should be raised with the Secretariat.
11. Will the full project be completed by the milestone date of July 2021?
The Independent Panel plans to deliver its final recommendations to the Government by July 2021. The milestone dates are marked indicative and may be subject to change, particularly given the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Part of the Panel’s task is to determine an appropriate timeline for recommended reclassifications and transfers to take place. It is expected that these processes will be undertaken over a period of time, taking into account both administrative processes and economic impacts.