THE federal government will fork out $250 million for regional roads in the upcoming budget, but the funding is just a pebble in a $5.5-billion pothole according to the Rural Road Alliance.
The money, which also includes "outer-urban" areas, will be shared between 466 local government areas, averaging out at about $536,000 each, with some larger LGAs receiving more than $1m.
The announcement is an extension of Phase 4 of the Local Roads and Community Infrastructure Program, which has already committed $500m to councils across the country.
But the newly-formed Rural Road Alliance says much more is needed to get the nation's rural road network up to scratch, and called for an emergency funding package totalling nearly $5.5-billion in next week's federal budget.
National Farmers' Federation chief executive and RRA member Tony Mahar warned that the current situation for rural road users is dire.
"It's holding back development of our regional communities and undermining safety and welfare for all users of country roads," Mr Mahar said.
"Severely damaged roads are dramatically increasing the time and cost of moving freight to and from our rural production centres."
The Alliance represents stakeholders from across regional Australia including farmers, transporters and local councils, and was formed in response to the critical challenges facing Australia's rural road network in the wake of flooding and high rainfall.
The RRA gave evidence to a parliamentary inquiry this week, laying out what the nation's crumbling rural road network needed; a one-off $1 billion injection to reconstruction roads impacted by floods to a standard more resilient to future disaster events, $3.2b over four years for the Roads to Recovery Program, and $1.2b over four years to address first and last mile freight productivity.
GrainGrowers and Australian Livestock and Rural Transporters Association, who also sit on the RRA, urged the government "to stem the rapid deterioration of Australia's rural road network", which has deteriorated to the point of impacting productivity and freighting routes.
"It's harder on our vehicles, it's harder on our drivers, and it's harder on our livestock," ALRTA director Mathew Munro said.
"At the end of the day it's a basic safety issue that needs to be addressed."
Mr Mahar also raised concerns that Labor's recently announced infrastructure spending review would impact regional thoroughfares.
Regional Development and Local Government Minister Catherine King acknowledged many councils were struggling to maintain and improve their local road networks, especially in the wake of repeated floods and other natural disasters.
"We are delivering our election commitment of a further $250 million through Phase 4 to prioritise road upgrades in regional, rural and outer urban areas," Ms King said.