Farmers, truck drivers and local councils are calling on the Federal Government to spend $5.5 billion fixing and future-proofing the nation’s disaster-ravaged roads, saying rural communities are struggling to recover after floods and cyclones. A new Rural Road Alliance, made up of farming groups and councils, wants an emergency road funding package in the May budget, including $1 billion across four years to rebuild rural roads to withstand future disasters. The group says 82,000km of rural roads have been closed by flooding across NSW, Queensland, Victoria and South Australia in the past two months, while WA’s freight routes have been devastated by cyclones. The alliance is made up of the National Farmers’ Federation, GrainGrowers, the Australian Local Government Association and the Australian Livestock and Rural Transporters Association. Major national transport routes including the Hume, Newell, Calder and Western Highways in the eastern States have copped severe damage, making it harder for produce to be exported. Meanwhile, WA’s Great Northern Highway was severed by catastrophic flooding in Fitzroy Crossing that destroyed the town’s bridge — an arterial route connecting the East and West Kimberley. A single-lane gravel track is providing access between Broome and Derby for the first time since New Year’s Eve after ex-cyclone Ellie dumped significant rainfall on the area. WA-based GrainGrowers chair Rhys Turton said the rural road network was now at breaking point. The Alliance has labelled the funding proposal an opportunity for the Commonwealth to stem the rapid deterioration of the rural road network and reduce further costs in other climate events. “We’re already seeing recently repaired roads crumbling,” Mr Turton said. “It’s thrown a challenging grain harvest into disarray as farmers and transporters struggle to move grain from paddock to port.” Under the alliance’s proposal, the almost $5.5 billion would include a one-off injection of $1b to allow regional councils to rebuild roads. It would also include $800m per year across four years towards the Federal Department of Infrastructure’s Roads to Recovery Program, $300m per year across four years to address first and last mile freight productivity, and targeted funding through the Roads of Strategic Importance program to improve the long-term climate resilience of freight networks. NFF chief executive officer Tony Mahar said the situation demanded a “substantial, long-term commitment”. “We can’t be left driving on decimated roads once the politicians and news cameras move onto the next disaster,” he said. Australian Livestock and Rural Transporters Association executive director Mat Munro said the poor state of the roads is increasing the time and cost of moving stock. “It’s harder on our vehicles, it’s harder on our drivers, and it’s harder on our livestock,” Mr Munro said. “It’s holding back development of our regional communities and undermining safety and welfare for all users of country roads.” Australian Local Government Association chief executive Matt Pinnegar said there had been 23 flood events and 429 disaster declarations across 277 local government areas during the past year. “The flooding, fires and cyclones we’ve seen over the past few years are unprecedented,” he said. “What we need now is unprecedented funding — not just to repair our roads, but to strengthen them for future events.” In the 2022-23 budget, the Federal Government set aside $28 billion for 410 major infrastructure projects in regional areas, including multiple road upgrades and repairs. Natural disasters and extreme weather events cost the Australian economy $5 billion last year.