Road rage, but no change
THE State Government has rejected calls to change a law that defines “repairs” as the erection of warning signs along damaged sections of road.
Wonthaggi Traders Association vice president Patrick Barry and Leongatha resident Lisa Burge – who has made almost daily complaints to VicRoads over the state of the Meeniyan-Promontory Road – say changes to the Roads Management Act (2004) are essential if motorists are to see potholes and other hazards repaired in a set timeframe.
The stand has also been backed by Leongatha Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Darryl McGannon, who last week chaired a fiery meeting of frustrated and disgusted local traders.
As is stands, the act, which in part defines “repair” as “providing a warning to road users of a defect in a roadway, pathway or road related infrastructure”, means roads authorities – including local councils – are under no obligation to undertake repairs in a defined time period if drivers have been alerted to a potential danger.
“It’s like planning or anything else like that. There needs to be an attachment to the act regarding time. It can’t be open ended like that,” Mr Barry said.
“They provide warnings, which is fine, but for how long? There’s no timeframe and for whatever reasons they’re just not repairing the holes, they’re just putting up signs.”
asked Roads Minister Terry Mulder and Deputy Premier Peter Ryan whether they would support the idea of legislative change.
A spokesperson for Mr Ryan said the Member for Gippsland South would raise the issue with Mr Mulder.
“Road safety warning signs are an important mechanism for alerting motorists to upcoming dangers, such as potholes, however they should only be considered a temporary option until repair works can be carried out,” the spokesperson said.
But neither Mr Ryan nor Mr Mulder answered the question: Do you believe the act should be changed?
A spokesperson for Mr Mulder said VicRoads had a priority to “ensure that appropriate maintenance is carried out to keep roads open and in a safe condition”.
The spokesperson said road signs were installed “for potentially hazardous sections of road to advise motorists of a change in road conditions, until more extensive repairs can be undertaken”.
“VicRoads has balanced the needs of maintaining as much of the road network in satisfactory condition against carrying out major repairs on small areas of the network,” she said.
Ms Burge, who lives in Leongatha but commutes to Fish Creek almost daily, said she was “in regular discussions with VicRoads” about the newest potholes on the treacherous stretch of bitumen.
“Learning that the act covered VicRoads if they put up a warning sign made my blood boil. Do I stop ringing VicRoads or do I do the right thing by the public? They’re out there today and the repairs are inadequate. It’s wrong that they can put these signs up for months without actually doing something,” she said.
“But really I don’t blame them. I think the fault lies with the Baillieu Government, which has slashed the roads maintenance budget funding.”
Slater and Gordon motor vehicle accident lawyer Rod Matthews said the act’s definition of “repair” was primarily written in to protect councils from litigation, with a tacit understanding that road authorities did not have the resources to fix all the problems they were presented with.
“To repair a pothole in the road might cost you 20 grand, but to put up a sign that says ‘Beware of the pothole ahead’ might cost you two grand. You might take the two grand option, because it allows you to also fund other things,” he said.
“The inference you can draw from the act is that, yes, there are a number of protective provisions for road authorities within that legislation.”
Mr Matthews said change to the act would depend on the “character of the government of the day and their views about the need for immunity” for roads authorities, be they councils or VicRoads.
“But change would work against the whole point of the act, which is to protect roads authorities. It goes back to that old historical provision, which is ‘finite funds and unlimited wants on those funds’,” he said.
“But I don’t think that old historical notion still applies to organisations like VicRoads. They’re run on corporate grounds. They probably should be brought up to speed.”
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