The state government has conceded it will not produce a road repair target for regional Victoria in 2023-24.
The government sets "road resurfacing and rehabilitation" targets in the state budget each year but in the 2023 May budget the figure was listed as "tbc". At the time the Department of Transport and Planning said its staff were still working on the modelling to finalise the repair target.
The Standard has asked the government about the missing target at least a dozen times since May, with spokespeople consistently saying staff were still working on the figure. But on November 21 a government spokesperson conceded there wouldn't be a resurfacing and rehabilitation target for regional Victoria in 2023-24. It is the first time the government has failed to set a repair benchmark.
The government said road damage from extreme rainfall had interfered with its modelling, making it impossible to produce a target.
"Last year's floods and record rainfall caused unprecedented damage to our roads, requiring resources to be diverted from planned road maintenance to emergency repairs to get flood-affected roads re-opened and keep communities connected to vital supplies and services," a spokesperson said.
"With this year's $770 million road maintenance blitz now underway, we're getting on with delivering critical repairs that our regional roads need.
"Our road maintenance blitz will be delivered as part of the first phase of a 10-year, $6.6 billion maintenance strategy, future-proofing regional roads to make sure they last."
But while the overall $770 million road maintenance figure for 2023-24 is nominally higher than the preceding two years, the government has also refused to say how much of that money would be spent in regional Victoria. In previous years the regional spending target was listed as a separate item.
The lack of certainty over regional road repairs in 2023-24 is made worse by the fact the government fell 25.6 per cent short of its regional repair target for 2022-23, leaving more than 3 million square metres of road surface unrepaired.
In recent days there have been more deaths on some of the more notorious south-west roads while the Victorian Farmers Federation president has slammed the Hamilton Highway as a "death trap".
South West Coast MP Roma Britnell said the government's failure to produce a repair target wasn't good enough.
"For the government to say it cannot use modelling because of flooding in the previous year is ludicrous," Ms Britnell said.
"It would have data going back years. It just needs to remove the rainfall anomaly and come up with new targets for this financial year.
"Money was allocated specifically to fix the flooded roads, separate to the budget after the event. If there is further damage to be repaired, that just needs to be included in the targets.
"The government continues to treat the community as stupid. The community are smarter than that, and the government can't keep getting away with spin.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.