The NSW Labor Opposition has warned 26 rural and regional councils are at risk of going bankrupt if they’re forced to foot the bill for forestry roads as a result of the proposed sale of Forestry Corporation by the NSW Liberal Nationals Government.
The roads, which are six times the distance from Sydney to Perth, could soon become the financial burden of rural and regional councils, if the road construction, maintenance, repair and upgrades obligations are transferred.
Answers provided to NSW Labor during recent Budget Estimates hearings revealed which NSW Councils share a combined 24,197.9 kilometres of roads currently owned and maintained by Forestry Corporation’s softwood plantations division.
- Bathurst Regional – 897.3km
- Bega Valley – 716.1km
- Blayney – 62.7km
- Cabone – 1,317.5km
- Clarence Valley – 132.3km
- Cootamundra-Gundagai Regional – 689.6km
- Cowra – 206.8km
- Dubbo Regional – 13.4km
- Goulburn Mulwaree – 73.7km
- Greater Hume Shire – 1,592.8km
- Kyogle – 388.4km
- Lithgow City – 1,152.6km
- Mid-Coast – 43.7km
- Oberon – 4,195.4km
- Orange – 60.1km
- Port Macquarie-Hastings – 37.8km
- Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council – 154.5km
- Richmond Valley – 761.8km
- Snowy Monaro Regional – 2,478.2km
- Snowy Valleys – 7,364.9km
- Tamworth Regional – 729.3km
- Tenterfield – 54.1km
- Wagga Wagga – 147.0km
- Walcha – 201.4km
- Wingecarribee – 383.1km
- Yass Valley – 343.5km
Forestry Corporation’s softwood division will spend an estimated $17.5 million on road construction, repair, maintenance and upgrades in 2019-20, on top of the more than $100 million spent over the last 8 years. A bill which could soon become the financial responsibility of these councils.
Labor’s Shadow Minister for Natural Resources, Paul Scully said: “This rush to sell-off Forestry Corporation to the highest bidder by the NSW Liberals and Nationals should send a shiver up the spine of every local Mayor and General Manager in 26 councils in rural and regional NSW.”
“I worry that the Government will secretly shift the costs of Forestry Corporation roads on to the books of local councils threatening their continued viability to provide essential services to their communities.”
“The local Mayors, General Managers and Councillors in the 26 councils need to make their voices known to the Government very quickly that they simply can’t and won’t bear the financial burden of the Forestry Corporation sell-off.
Labor’s Shadow Minister for Local Government, Greg Warren said: “These revelations are deeply disturbing. The NSW Liberals and Nationals have done everything in their power over the past eight a half years to destroy councils, from inflated local government election costs and forced mergers, the list goes on and on.”
“The Minister for Local Government and her government must immediately provide these 26 councils with a guarantee that they will not be required to pay for maintenance, repair, construction and upgrades of these roads.”
Forestry Corporation employs 516 workers across NSW, produces around 25 per cent of timber used in housing construction annually and manages 2 million hectares of the state’s forest estate.
It has also provided over $124 million in dividends to the NSW Budget since 2011 to help pay for local schools, hospitals and other essential services.
Mr Scully last week moved a Notice of Motion in the Legislative Assembly calling on the government to table its scoping study on the Forestry Corporation sell-off and allow a vote on the floor of Parliament on the proposed sale.