We need to build back better is the message Forbes Shire Council will take to the NSW Local Government conference this November.
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Forbes Shire Council will table a motion to the conference that LGNSW lobbies the Australian Federal Government and NSW State Government to establish a funding model for Natural Disaster Restoration that includes 'betterment': that restores roads to a stronger design so they can reopen to drivers as floodwaters recede, without needing repairs.
At this point, funding provided through the Australian Government Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements is only to restore public infrastructure to its standard immediately before disaster.
"In many cases, a flood will occur washing away a section of road which is subsequently restored to its pre-existing condition, only for the identical section to be washed away again within a short period of time, sometimes only a few months," the report to Forbes Shire Council's September meeting said.
The council wants to upgrade sections of road that repeatedly get flooded to be flood tolerant: to maintain their structural integrity whilst flooded.
"When the water level recedes to a safe level and the road is reopened, the road can be driven on immediately and will continue to maintain its integrity and not form potholes," the report said.
"Rebuilding roads in the same location multiple times, due to a flood event, is irresponsible expenditure of public funds."
The State Government has more recently budgeted $50 million for improvements to make homes more flood resilient, flagging it as a down payment on necessary public infrastructure improvements as well.
The council is also lobbying the NSW Government to pay at least half of flood damage claims up front, so councils aren't bearing the financial burden of disaster repairs.
Councils like Forbes Shire are being forced to carry the financial burden of both climate events and bureaucratic excess outside of their control.
Forbes shire incurred more than $14 million in flood damage and has had to significantly increase its road maintenance crews to address the extensive road damage across the shire, the report to councillors said.
"Forbes Shire Council commenced repair works not long after the November flood, and as at 30 June 2023 had funded more than $6.68m worth of flood damage works on the State, Regional and Local network from its own operating capital," the report said.
"The State Government did forward a $2.5m prepayment as a result of lobbying by Council, which helped reduce the financial burden, however, works completed by February 2023 on the State network had still not been reimbursed as at 30 June 2023.
"These extreme delays in payment have put significant strain on Council's finances.
"The excessive timing delays between claim submission lodgment and claim payment receipt from Transport for NSW, as well as the overly onerous reimbursement reporting requirements placed on councils, means that councils like Forbes Shire are being forced to carry the financial burden of both climate events and bureaucratic excess outside of their control."
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