The Victorian Government provided $1.4 million over two years in the 2021-22 Victorian Budget for a Rural Roads Support Package to improve the road asset management capacity and capability of the 11 rural councils having responsibility for the longest lengths of local roads on a per capita basis.
Victoria's councils are responsible for maintaining 132,500 kilometres of local roads, with more than 65 per cent of that length being the responsibility of rural councils. Small shires generally carry a greater financial burden in road infrastructure than other councils as a result of their relatively larger geographical area, small populations and lower rating capacity.
A three-phase program has been developed with Ararat Rural City Council and Buloke, Gannawarra, Hindmarsh, Loddon, Northern Grampians, Pyrenees, Strathbogie, Towong, West Wimmera and Yarriambiack Shire Councils to improve the use of data, data collection, and interoperability of local council systems. The key challenges to road asset management that councils highlighted are capacity and practice issues relating to the use of data, data collection technologies, staff expertise and interoperability of local council systems. Data collection and analysis capability, in particular, were highlighted as fundamental to improving asset management practice and decision making.
The three program phases are:
- Phase One – The development a common road data set to meet the road asset management requirements with the support of consultants engaged by Local Government Victoria.
- Phase Two – A program to understand councils’ existing data collection, management and analysis systems and practices and how any challenges to collecting, managing and analysing the common data set can be addressed.
- Phase Three – A data collection and analysis capacity building program that provides funding support to the 11 councils to address the challenges identified in Phase Two.
The program design takes into account the diversity of road asset management maturity and decision-making sophistication amongst the councils.
A common road data set framework has been developed. The Rural Roads Common Dataset Framework approach PDF, 145.24 KB is aimed at building consensus on road statutory and funding grant reporting requirements, as well as promoting good road asset management practices.
Included in the Rural Roads Common Dataset Framework XLSX, 690.24 KB are road network profile, condition and management indicators that provide councils with an objective and robust picture of their current road network, and enable councils to:
- meet their statutory responsibilities, particularly asset management responsibilities prescribed in the Local Government Act 2020 and Road Management Act 2004
- utilise asset management frameworks and toolkits, such as the National Asset Management Assessment Framework and the Municipal Association of Victoria’s STEP Asset Management Framework, to develop maturity and sophistication in their planning and management
- promptly and effectively respond to community feedback, needs and expectations
- provide the required information to access recurrent and ad-hoc grant funding, including Commonwealth Financial Assistance Grants and Disaster Relief Funding Arrangement support
- support state emergency management response
- address recommendations in the Auditor-General’s Maintaining Local Roads report in relation to gaps in road condition data, improving information used for road maintenance planning, and effective engagement of communities to understand road users' needs, and
- identify areas for improvements tailored to each council’s operating environment.
An eight asset lifecycle information layer methodology has been adopted as the foundational structure across the Framework. Those 8 information layers represent the asset lifecycle in a simple and purpose driven manner, capturing the What, Where, Capability, Utilisation, Condition, Performance and Cost related to road assets. It enables the opportunity for the dataset to grow in the future in an organised manner as the maturity of council practice evolves.
The Framework is made up of core data items to meet statutory, grant, emergency and basic asset management requirements, and optional supplementary data items as value-add data items to further support and inform asset management decision making. Also included are optional risk and resilience data to support asset management decision making, optional automated pavement condition assessment data to demonstrate best practice in road pavement condition monitoring.
It builds on previous industry harmonisation efforts, in particular the Austroads Data Standard for Road Management and Investment in Australia and New Zealand, and sense checked against the Vicmap Transport Data Model.
From June 2022, each of the 11 councils will receive a total of $56,500 over two funding rounds to improve their capability and capacity. This funding support totalling $621,500 marks the commencement of the third phase.
For more information, contact Chris Phoon, Manager Rural Roads Projects at email@example.com.