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Repeated rain and flooding events on the east coast have seriously damaged critical road infrastructure across Australia’s grain growing regions. While this recent damage is severe in impacted areas, long-term underfunding of regional road networks is an issue nationally, leaving growers across Australia facing major delays and logistical issues.

GrainGrowers is driving an agenda to improve access to and efficiency of the grain supply chain and is seeking urgent maintenance, funding, and long-term solutions for growers.

Urgent maintenance for National Land Transport Network

Key sections of this nationally important road and rail network, including Hume, Newell, Calder and Western Highways are rapidly deteriorating.
Caragabal grower Gus Taylor is not only facing freight issues with these key roads being in a state of disrepair but is also cut off from receiving key inputs.
“In the lead up to harvest, the freight impacts from road closures and degradation have been detrimental. I am waiting for parts for the header, which still have not arrived, and with the Newell Highway shut, access to getting parts from dealers is also problematic.”
“With roads all around us shut or too damaged for trucks, I am having logistical issues with the movement of grain and livestock. Others around me are having issues with staff getting to work due to flooding.”
Delivering 4 billion tonnes of goods across Australia and connecting grain to both domestic and export markets, The National Land Transport Network is critical for Australian grains.

Increased funding for regional local roads

Council-owned local roads make up 87 per cent of Australia’s road network and play a critical role in first and last mile grain freight access. Many rural local councils were already struggling to maintain their large road networks, with recent flooding only exacerbating the funding deficit.
Prairie grower Russell Hocking says that although the flooding has made things worse, the roads were already deteriorating and underfunded.
“There are parts of our roads that are literally impassable if trucks are coming both directions. We’ve had major issues with the main roads into Bendigo for the past three years and the rain has only worsened the problem.”

“For our area, the funding model is flawed. Our regions need a bigger per capita spend, not only over the next 5-10 years but immediately. With the extensive road damage, it’s also a huge safety concern. Our roads are unsafe to drive on and it needs to be a higher priority, for both grains and the safety of those who use these roads.”

Some local councils have said they will be forced to close flood impacted local roads as they cannot afford to repair them. To ensure growers can continue operating safely and efficiently, it is vital that increased funding is provided to repair regional local roads.

Increased funding for bridge renewal

Much of Australia’s regional bridge infrastructure was built over 50 years ago and is coming to the end of its lifetime. Rural and regional road managers are often unable to afford the cost of replacing bridges and are instead forced to implement bridge load limits to protect their assets. These load limits inhibit productivity by restricting the total weight a heavy vehicle can carry over the bridge, resulting in the use of smaller and less efficient heavy vehicle combinations to transport grain.

The Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) 2021 State of the Assets report found:
5% of concrete bridges are in poor condition with a replacement value of $1.2b
18% of timber bridges are in poor condition with a replacement value of $310M

A two-year old bridge near grower Gus Taylor in Caragabal NSW

Funding has been reduced in the forward estimates for the Bridges Renewal Program in the recent budget. Increased funding for bridge renewal will be critical for high productivity freight routes and improved freight efficiency.

Improved adaptability of freight networks

Natural disasters and increasing climate variability are directly impacting Australia’s road infrastructure each year and adaptability of key freight routes needs to be a priority in the funding model. Rather than just patching potholes, it is crucial the Federal Government invest in improving the long-term resilience of key grain freight networks.

“Our local roads are the key to providing grain to Australia and it’s disheartening to see repairs that are crucial to our business being bumped for bigger road projects. At the moment, we don’t have the resources, machinery, or the crew locally to make the repairs.” says Russell.

“Long term, the funding model isn’t working. It needs to change.”


Grain Freight and Supply Chains

Freight costs account for 30% of the price of grain at port. Australia's global competitiveness is limited by the cost of transporting grain and efficient supply chains are critical for future industry success.

GrainGrowers is driving an agenda to improve access to and efficiency of the grain supply chain and is seeking urgent maintenance, funding, and long-term solutions for growers.

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