By Peter Douglas
Yarra Ranges Council has unanimously slammed suggestions VicRoads should be split into urban and country divisions.
After signing off on a submission to a parliamentary inquiry into VicRoads’ management of country roads, council, at its Tuesday 13 February meeting, condemned the potential dismantling of the roads authority.
Councillors Jim Child, Tony Stevenson, Tim Heenan and Fiona McAllister were particularly harsh on talk of the move, labelling it a waste of funds and potentially further jeopardising the maintenance of local roads.
The suggestion of a split only came to Council’s attention after staff became aware of the inquiry just one week before submissions closed on 15 January, despite submissions being called for in November last year.
Cr McAllister said a VicRoads’ divide would be disastrous for the Yarra Ranges.
“The thought of a split sends absolute shivers up my spine. In terms of doubling the bureaucracy with an agency that’s already struggling for cash to deliver the services that it needs to,” Cr McAllister said.
“I can just see a process that will take several years and suck up millions … and it will end up a poorer result for us.
“I just think this is a real critical issue. Roads come up on our agenda and, in every survey we do, it tops the pops every time in terms of community importance.”
VicRoads manages about one quarter of Yarra Ranges’ 2300km of roads network, of which only 65km comprise unmade arterial roads.
Yarra Ranges councillors and officers were entrusted with compiling a response for the inquiry, which seeks to measure the effectiveness of VicRoads, as well as its funding model.
The response will help to shape how roads in the Yarra Ranges may be managed in the future.
Cr Jim Child said Council officers have “hit the nail on the head” when preparing a response, which includes calls for better consultation with council and community.
“VicRoads has to establish senior, management-level consultation with councils. This is something that used to happen in the past but that fell away,” Cr Child said.
“VicRoads should have a program of annual consultation with council and also the community.
“Our officers have a good rapport with VicRoads, but I think what we’re trying to put forward to the inquiry is ‘are they appropriately funded for the job’.
The Yarra Ranges Council response also includes calls for increased funding levels and establishment of better mechanisms for dealings with local government and communities.
Council will also call on VicRoads to provide more consultation around setting speed limits.
Cr Stevenson said he could think of numerous examples that needed attention, particularly around areas where children frequent.
“The Seville Water Play Park is surrounded by two significant roads. The Seville-Monbulk Road is 6kmh in one direction and 50kmh in the other direction,” Cr Stevenson said.
“This is something brought to the attention of VicRoads over 12 months ago and nothing has happened. Now, that is a disaster waiting to happen.”