UPHILL BATTLE: A new NRMA report has named Bangalow Rd among the ones needing repairs in the Lismore City Council area.
UPHILL BATTLE: A new NRMA report has named Bangalow Rd among the ones needing repairs in the Lismore City Council area. Marc Stapelberg

$154 million: That's how much we need to fix our roads

IT'S going to take $154.1 million to get Northern Rivers roads pothole free and satisfactory to drive on, new figures have revealed.

The NRMA has crunched the numbers and estimates it would take $2.2 billion to repair poor road surfaces in NSW.

It has also revealed a 30 per cent jump in the backlog of repair work to deteriorating NSW roads since 2015.

NRMA released its annual Funding Local Roads report on Monday, which found the North Coast - Port Macquarie to Tweed - accounts for 26 per cent of the total backlog, which equates to about $437.8 million or more than a quarter of the total deficit.

To satisfactorily repair roads, Lismore City Council would need $71.3 million, Richmond Valley $9.5 million, Kyogle $32.9 million, Ballina Shire $1.7 million, Byron Shire $31.9m and Tenterfield Shire $6.8 million.

Richmond Valley's backlog saw a significant increase of 3385.3 per cent from $0.3 million in 2015-16, while Ballina rose 15.8 per cent.

But the good news is Lismore's requirement has fallen 10.1 per cent from $79.3 million in 2015-16, while Byron Shire's is down 1.4 per cent.


In the 2017/18 financial year Lismore City Council filled 26,500 potholes.

Council identified some of the most problematic roads as Coraki Rd, Kyogle Rd, Nimbin Rd, New Ballina Rd and Wyrallah Rd, on which works will take place over the next 6-12 months to repair some of the worst sections.

General manager Shelley Oldham said the council could attribute the decrease in its road repairs backlog to changing its approach on maintaining roads some years ago.

"Instead of fixing the worst roads first, we resurface roads before they fall into disrepair as full road reconstructions are the most costly," Ms Oldham said.

"While this means it takes longer for our worst roads to be reconstructed, this strategy is about the long game, and over time we get more life out of every road and can fix more kilometres of road each year.

"In 10 years, this will see the standard of the entire road network improve."

Byron Shire

Director Infrastructure Services Phil Holloway said Council acknowledged the frustration around the roads and the simple reason for the state of the roads was a lack of funds.

"The poor condition of roads is partly because elected Councils over many years did not see roads as a priority," he said.

"Byron Shire also has a relatively low rate base (15, 585 rateable properties) and 2.2 million visitors a year which puts pressure on our infrastructure, particularly our road networks. 

"In 2016 the newly-elected Council determined that roads would be a priority area and each year since then the budget for roadworks has increased.  In 2018/19 we have budgeted $41.3 million for roadworks and construction.

"In May 2017 Council was successful in receiving approval from the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal for a rates increase (special rate variation) over four years (starting in 2017/18) to generate more money for road maintenance and improvements. 

"In 2017/18 it raised an extra $1.18 million which was spent on renewing roads, bridges and other infrastructure.  This year (2018/19) it will increase to $2.27 million."

He said Council has recently been able to deliver a number of significant projects thanks to grant funding from the NSW and Australian Governments:

  • Bayshore Drive Roundabout ($2.8 million - Australian Government's Building Better Regions Fund)
  • Replacement of Scarrabelottis Bridge, O'Meara's Bridge, Parkers Bridge, James Bridge, Booyong Bridge and Blindmouth Creek Causeway ($2.58 million - NSW Government's Restart NSW Fixing Country Roads Program, $2.58 million - Australian Government's Bridges Renewal Program)

Priority roads in the Byron Shire for renewal in the near future that are in the current long term plan include sections of The Pocket Rd, Bangalow Road and Myocum Road.

"However, the list of roads to be renewed is substantial," Mr Holloway said.

Byron Shire Council fills an average of 5,331 potholes a month. 

Richmond Valley

During 2017-18, the council repaired 19,866 potholes across regional, urban and rural sealed roads.

The council's primary focus is the Woodburn-Coraki Rd, however the works program also includes many other roads scheduled for maintenance.

A council spokeswoman said the blowout reported by NRMA could be attributed to an upward projection of the backlog of works after comprehensive condition inspections on local road networks since 2015-16.


Acting general manager Marcus Schintler said Kyogle Council continued to punch above its weight having reduced its roads and bridges infrastructure backlog by more than 50 per cent since the 2016-17 financial year.

"Kyogle Council's roads and bridges infrastructure backlog is down from $32.9 million in 2016-17 to $12.8 million in 2017-18," he said.

"In 2018-19 we are rolling out a capital works program of $20.2 million to further address the backlog."

The works program includes $7 million for bridges across the LGA, $4.1 million for Culmaran Creek Rd, $2.8 million for the Clarence Way, and more than $1 million for the rehabilitation of sealed roads.

In 2016-17, council patched more than 52,000 potholes and that figure increased to more than 80,000 last financial year.


Paul Busmanis, Ballina Shire Council's manager of engineering works, said from July to December 2018 council repaired 3363 potholes, which was a 15 per cent increase to the output achieved during the previous period. Of these, 33 were major potholes.

"In 2017 and 2018 we completed four major black spot projects including the Ross Lane widening, Skennars Head roundabout, Byron Bay Rd (3km of road) and the Ross Lane roundabout," he said.

"Within the current financial year our road project priorities will be the Airport Boulevard, Lake Ainsworth, Links Avenue, Fawcett Lane, Tamar St, Cherry St, Burnet St, Crane St, River Drive, Bagotville Rd, Wardell Rd and River St (road reconstruction and beautification between Grant and Moon streets)."