192019Feb

Improving our road network on the Gold Coast

In June 2018,  I was asked by Gold Coast Bulletin and ABC Gold Coast journalists about the road network and the recent budget. Paul Weston wrote about some of that commentary in June, after he asked me to clarify some of the concerns and advocacy previously discussed. Those articles have been recently followed up over past weeks. I’ve listed a few of them below with hyperlinks for your reference.

February 19, 2019 – Paul Westontallai

February 13, 2019 – Paul Weston

February 12, 2019 – Paul Weston

February 11, 2019 – Andrew Potts

February 2, 2019 – Andrew Potts and Paul Weston

June 29, 2018 – Paul Weston

The City’s capital works investment into the road network in the 18/19 Council budget, as a proportion of our total capital works program this current year, really only rises in line with the growth of our city. That is, because our city is growing, EVERY year we should be spending “more than ever” on our road network. The percentages below show the proportion of road network investment in the context of the total capital works program, in recent years.

15/16 – 28.4%
16/17 – 28.7%
17/18 – 27.5%
18/19 – 29.0%

As you can see, after an appropriate pause during the Commonwealth Games year, we’ve only just returned to the pre-Games level. Hinterland residents in Division 9 are telling me that they expect us to bust congestion, delivering projects that can improve traffic congestion on Council roads feeding into the state road network. I’m with them. We can do more and we should do more. For the record, the community consultation delivered across the whole city supports this view too.

After meetings with Karen Andrews MP and Ros Bates MP in advance of the June 2018 budget adoption, both added their support to that of the community, asking me to fight for local roads. Were an opportunity offered at the Budget Adoption meeting, I would have spoken to this, but unfortunately no debate occurred, at the discretion of the chairperson (you can watch the stream HERE to see for yourself). The 18/19 budget deserved a pass mark, just, but a robust debate about these road network investment figures may have been in the public interest.

Frankly, drawing on Council’s significant reserves (perhaps those set aside for strategic priorities, or those set aside from infrastructure charge contributions for roads brought forward – which would mean negligible impact on property rate rises) to raise the road network capital works investment to 33%-40% of total capital works activity would be wise, in my personal view, if we are serious about busting congestion in the city sooner.

Additionally, it is of interest that from 30 June 2011 until 30 June 2018 our interesting bearing loans have gone from $764m to $641m. Over the same period our cash assets have gone from $590m to $936m.

So what is the city saving up cash for?

Why hasn’t the proportion of budget allocation for roads increased by more than 2% when we have have saved up $346m in cash assets?

These are important questions. I note the Gold Coast Bulletin today publish confirmation that the accumulated cash assets will not be provided for an Offshore Cruise Ship Terminal. That’s encouraging, in my personal view..

Even just a $40m injection into the roads program for shovel ready projects is clearly available and could be exercised. In fact, page 31 of the city’s adopted Transport Strategy identifies a funding shortfall (that is, the difference between our available annual “capex” budget for roads and the strategy delivery budget) of $36.2m per annum over the life of the strategy. The plan is in place. Adopted. The budget should fund it. It doesn’t, and it hasn’t yet.

Two years ago I voted against the budget (for a variety of reasons) and was criticised for it (on the public record again yesterday in the Mayors clarification). Last year I tried to call for increased transport funding again, but the Mayor was evidently not supportive (having not provided for the allocation in his draft budget) and did not allow for any debate at the budget adoption meeting. This year MUST be different. Offer your thoughts on traffic in the city’s budget consultation by following THIS LINK.

NB:

This article addresses my approach to local road budgets in Division 9 (as opposed to the broader city-wide network plan and capital works plan.)

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