Published: 21 October 2016
Author: John Cramp

Failure to maintain regional roads is costing locals

Damaged cars, damaged bodies and damaged lives have sadly become an every day occurrence in parts of South-West Victoria.

The state of roads has led lawyers at Stringer Clark to speak out because we are witness to the excessive damage and harm caused to our clients on these roads. In addition, as local people we witness the dangers first hand and hear the frustrations of friends and family.

During the last few years, there has been a significant increase in logging and more commercial trucks are using country roads that weren’t designed for this kind of traffic, which has left the roads in a terrible state.

The road authorities have managed only minimal repairs and consequently the roads are covered in potholes, which have become a safety hazard and are causing significant injury for local people.

There is clearly a lack of proper maintenance and poor stop gap measures do not suffice

Road maintenance and construction is currently subject to contract and is awarded to the lowest tender, which does not necessarily guarantee quality roads. The repairs seem to last a maximum of six months before the Shire’s road maintenance need to deal with the issue all over again, rather than manage daily activity to keep the roads in good condition.

If we experience heavy rain in the South-West, sections of the road deteriorate and need to be fixed, but often they are slightly improved and six months later the road will seek repair again. This piecemeal approach and bandaid solution is costing tax payer’s money and in some cases, their well being and their lives.

The Road Management Act for Victorian roads is draconian. B class roads that are heavily used are checked every three weeks, while C class roads are checked every 6 months and there is no liability for faults that develop in the intervening period unless notification is received in writing from the public.

Small and simple actions can create significant change

Many residents have become aware that the excess for road accidents is $1400 and unless significant damage is incurred, it is very difficult to secure compensation. Therefore, we encourage local residents who experience road issues to seek assistance, and to band together and use their collective voice. Some of the things residents can do include:

  1. Seek local legal advice from Stringer Clark on whether compensation can be sought.
  2. Lobby local members of parliament and ask the tough questions, for example;
    • Write a brief letter that outlined the status of the poor road conditions
    • Ask why legislation gives total protection to road authorities rather than the residents of the Shire who are experiencing damage and injury on these same roads?
    • Question how we are going to get rid of this problem and whether stop gap measures are actually working?
    • Ask if the fees of trucking companies are channelled directly to where the roads are being impacted?
    • Ask why roads in the South-West are in significantly worse condition than other parts of Victoria?
  3. Contact the local newspaper and radio about your experience on the roads.

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