Ivan Dean MLC 

Legislative Council

Seat: Windermere
Party: Independent

Tuesday 19 June 2007


Estimates Committee B (Cox) - Part 2 - Legislative Council

Excerpt from a transcript of Hansard

Mr DEAN - I have some questions in relation to line marking . Currently local government has a number of concerns in relation to where the responsibility lies for line marking in this State. I ask the question because local government say it really does not lie with them at all because this is under the Traffic Act and regulations, they do not have responsibility under those acts and that line marking rests with DIER, with the State. Can I please be given the information? It is not a debate I know, but I might say that on the advice given to me local government do not want to have to sort this matter out in the coroner's court, to use their words.

[2.45 p.m.]
Mr COX - This has been ongoing for many, many years. My information over many years has been that the State Government does not have responsibility for the line marking of local roads. However, we have put forward over a period of time $300 000 per annum. It is not our responsibility. It is a goodwill gesture on behalf of State government to local government. That has been an interesting conversation over many years. We have now allocated an additional $1 million over the four years, commencing in 2006-07, for the line marking on local roads, which doubles the previous amount. We supply the money but the councils do it, is that right?
Mr TODD - We do the work.

Mr COX - We do the work but they nominate it?

Mr TODD - We liaise with the councils on their priorities but it is done on a needs basis.

Mr COX - So, historically, that is my version of events. Mr Todd may have a different one.

Mr DEAN - What I mean to say is that there is a lot of controversy about this. Whilst I hear what you say, local governments say that there is no legislative requirement anywhere for them to undertake line marking on roads anywhere. Because it is under the Traffic Act, what they are asking for is for this to be determined once and for all. If responsibility lies with local government they may be looking at reasonable funding obviously for that purpose, but they say it is not clearly identified and they also say that DIER do not want, for some reason or another, to very clearly identify the responsibilities and so on. It comes up every year.

Mr COX - I have not had the pleasure of dealing with local government for a while. My recollection of this is that we had legal advice. The legal advice was it was not our responsibility, it was the road owner's responsibility. I will start that again. Our legal advice was that it is the road owner's responsibility, which means it is local government's responsibility. I go back to what I said a little while ago, State government put forward $300 000 per annum to the local government. Local government have always said: it is not our problem. There were instances of some councils who did not use that money for the specific purposes. As I have just said and as Mr Todd said, we now give an additional $1 million and we do the work in conjunction with them on a needs basis. Unless my recollection is incorrect, it was our legal advice that it was the road owner's responsibility.

Mr DEAN - I am not saying that is not right, but can I ask for a copy of that legal advice so that it can be shown to local government?

Mr COX - Local government is well aware of this.

Mr DEAN - They say they are not. That is the advice I am receiving from engineers within the infrastructure sections of the councils, not just one person in the council, but within council.

CHAIR - Does the Mayor of Launceston have a legal officer?

Mr DEAN - Yes. He needs one.

CHAIR - Within the council I mean.

Mr DEAN - He needs one everywhere. Is there some documentary -

Mr COX - There is, but as Mr Todd rightly points out I am not too sure that we want to release the legal advice that we have got. If you want some then perhaps local government can go and get it. But that is certainly our advice and has been for many years.

CHAIR - If local government have legal responsibility, do they also have responsibility for deciding what roads will have a white line and where it goes, or is it the State branch for the sake of consistency around the State that designates where the lines are marked? Can you answer that one first?

Mr DEAN - I thank you for that because my engineer asked me to say thank you.

Mr TODD - The State Government through the Chief Traffic Engineer has the role of approving those traffic control devices, whether that is signs or line marking . It includes all those. There is that role so that there is that consistency across the State.

CHAIR - You are telling me you have a regulatory role with no legal responsibility?

Mr TODD - Yes.

CHAIR - I am not a lawyer, but to me that sounds quite interesting -

Mr COX - It is quite bizarre, I think.

Mr HILL - Councils do it all the time though, don't they? They have a legal responsibility. They regulate people all the time but have no -

CHAIR - Are you taking on the local government people now?

Mr HILL - No. I actually have been the adviser to the previous Minister for Local Government.

CHAIR - The best advice perhaps is that local government quite clearly should get a legal opinion because if an issue does happen there could be some joint legal responsibility? Is that a fair summation of the issues? Then both sides have an opinion.

Mr COX - If that is what local government wishes to do. I would be interested to see what LGAT want to do and whether they are keen to spend the money.

Mr DEAN - Looking at traffic lights now, what are the criteria used to determine where traffic lights ought to be? Is that in conjunction with local government but with regard to traffic numbers, what is the news for that?

Mr TODD - Yes, that is right. Do you mean for pedestrian crossings?

Mr DEAN - I mean for traffic intersection lights first and then pedestrian lights as well.

Mr TODD - It is based on safety primarily but also the movement of traffic and whether that is a good option. There are other traffic control devices such as roundabouts that could be used. But traffic lights are one that we would assess, yes.

Mr COX - And that is in conjunction with local government.

Mr TODD - Yes. Particularly if it is on a local road, we would.

Mr DEAN - If it is on a local government road it is a cost against local government.

Mr TODD - For signals, yes.

Mr COX - There is one that you have spent some very good money on recently, I have to say, and that is the five-ways in Launceston. I commend you for that.

CHAIR - Are you commending the Mayor of Launceston through the member for Windermere?

Mr COX - I helped him.

Mr DEAN - The member for Windermere will probably pass that on to the mayor.

Mr COX - Thank you.

Mr DEAN - The next one was in relation to the synchronisation of traffic lights, which has been raised very recently. You would be aware of this?

Mr COX - Yes.

Mr DEAN - Is that a responsibility of DIER?

Mr TODD - It certainly is.

Mr DEAN - I think in this instance DIER have indicated, if the media release was right, that you would be looking at I think one area of Launceston where people complain bitterly about the fact that the lights are not synchronised. Are you currently looking at that?

Mr TODD - As part of the upgrade on the Tamar Highway we have been working on the lights at the bridge to synchronise those with the ones at Forster Street and going back the other way. We are certainly improving that area through there. That work is getting close to completion.

Mr DEAN - Okay. But it is a DIER -

Mr TODD - Yes, that is correct.

Mr DEAN - You have some consultation going. That is all I have in relation to the first point there.

Mrs RATTRAY-WAGNER - I think you would be disappointed if I did not talk about the white line contract.

Mr COX - I gave you a tin of paint last time.

Mrs RATTRAY-WAGNER - I need more than one. Hence I would like to know what is the line item quantum for actually providing those services to the road network for the line-marking contract?

Mr COX - Where are we talking about now?

Mrs RATTRAY-WAGNER - We are talking about statewide.

Mr COX - Are you talking for local government?

Mrs RATTRAY-WAGNER - No. I am talking about State roads, the line-marking contract that -

Mr TODD - That is in the capital investment program. There is a line item there. It is approximately $1 million a year for line marking on state roads, including the National Highway.

Mrs RATTRAY-WAGNER - Has that been extended this year? Do we want to leave it to capital investment or do we want to follow through here?

Mr TODD - I am happy -

Mrs RATTRAY-WAGNER - Have the funds been expanded out?

CHAIR - Extra money.

Mr TODD - My recollection is that that is about the normal amount of money we get.

Mr COX - The answer is yes.

Mr TODD - It is of that order each year.

Mrs RATTRAY-WAGNER - Is the department satisfied that that contract is meeting the safety standards of the roads?

Mr TODD - I meant to indicate that there are different arrangements. In the north of the State, because of the arrangements we have with the northern maintenance contract, we have a separate line-marking contract. We also have arrangements with the islands to do line marking there. In the south the line marking is the responsibility of the southern maintenance contractor. There is also money that they expend on line marking , probably of the order of $200 000 to $300 000 a year as well. While we have a line item for line marking , particularly in the north and the islands, there is also the amount that the southern maintenance contract is investing. So it is probably of the order of $1.3 million.

Mrs RATTRAY-WAGNER - Has there been a recent audit that has given information to the department saying where there is a breakdown in the quality of line marking , or is that not available?

Mr TODD - We regularly review the line marking and any deficient areas go onto our forward program.

Mrs RATTRAY-WAGNER - Is there a current review at hand?

Mr COX - It is constant.

Mr TODD - It is an ongoing review.

Mr COX - But if something is found to have diminished or not to be up to standard and it was at the bottom of the list, that would be brought forward because it has deteriorated quicker than was anticipated?

Mr TODD - That is correct, yes.

CHAIR - Whilst you have a list you prioritise on a needs basis?

Mr COX - That is exactly right.

Mr TODD - We do that on an annual basis. Clearly we can only paint lines in the dry weather, so we would be reviewing that as we come up to the warmer season.

Mrs RATTRAY-WAGNER - I have noticed in the past that there have been some extensions of the line markings in particular areas, so obviously there has been a review taking place to extend some of those overtaking options where you have got a single line and a broken line has been extended to double white lines.

Mr TODD - Yes, that is correct.

Mrs RATTRAY-WAGNER - What sort of process is taken? I assumed that there would have to be an audit.

Mr TODD - Our traffic engineering people are constantly monitoring the network and reviewing the locations of the barrier lines, as we call them, so that they are up to date. That changes depending on developments alongside of the road, vegetation and typical vehicle speeds. We are continually reviewing those. From time to time members of the public raise an issue and we will investigate that and if we need to we will change the lines.

Mrs RATTRAY-WAGNER - They are usually done at the request of the public, or not necessarily?

Mr TODD - Not necessarily, no. We are continually reviewing them but we will respond to a public inquiry if there is one.

Mr COX - Is there any one in particular?

Mrs RATTRAY-WAGNER - All over Tasmania, but probably not as much in the north-west and the south as the north and north-east and east coast.

CHAIR - Because she travels on those roads the most.

Mr COX - She is wearing out the lines. So it is your fault.

Mrs RATTRAY-WAGNER - Could be.

Mrs JAMIESON - Is there a review being done at all of the circumference of roundabouts, for example, because there are a couple in Devonport that are very narrow, or have very tight turns. Buses and other vehicles must have a challenge getting around them.

CHAIR - That is a very serious issue and I can tell you how to solve it after you answer the question. And you do not need an engineer.

Mr TODD - We are not doing any formal review.

CHAIR - Is there an engineering standard?

Mr TODD - There is a standard based on the types of vehicles that need to pass through the roundabout. We use turning templates to match the types of vehicles. If it is just a local street we do not need to accommodate for very large vehicles obviously, but if it is on a larger road where we need to accommodate those we use a turning template.

Mrs JAMIESON - The roundabout I am specifically thinking of is the one at the intersection of William Street and Steele Street in Devonport, which is a really tight one. A lot of traffic goes through there and trucks and buses have a real challenge getting around that without running up on the kerb. I am just wondering about smaller ones like that and I guess it is one of the earlier ones?

Mr TODD - It is a balance between getting the traffic flow through and getting people to slow down.
Roundabouts have a very good safety outcome. If we make them too small people just go straight through them; they do not slow down, so it is a balancing act. Although we can make them bigger so the big trucks can get through, but then we find that the cars will just go straight through because they do not need to slow down. So getting that right is a balancing act.

CHAIR - Who decides the prioritisation in communities and on main roads where heavy transport should go versus others. I hear what you say about we decide what is happening there. The roundabout that was put in one specific area did not account for the fact that school buses went around it to go to the local high school. Quite clearly a prioritisation of a different route to the high school had been put in place but without liaising with the local bus operators who maybe used the wrong road but they have done it traditionally for five or six years to my knowledge. Who is responsible for that, local areas?

Mr TODD - That work is done in consultation with the councils because they are the people that know those local movements. So it would be in consultation with them.

CHAIR - Do you want me to tell you how to fix it?

Mr COX - I am waiting to see.

CHAIR - It is quite simple. When you decide where you are going to put a roundabout and you decide what sort of traffic goes around it, you go to the local bus operators who have complained consistently and you bring them along and get them to drive around and you have your engineers with a piece of chalk who actually physically mark the space needed. It works perfectly every time.

Mr COX - Perhaps when you are finished chairing this committee you can find a job for me.

CHAIR - As the chalk person?

Mr COX - To supply the chalk.

CHAIR - It does stop the interaction of complaint between different parties if they have been involved and proved their point or otherwise. Are there any other questions?
[3.00 pm]

Mr DEAN - To follow on from the member for Apsley, I am sure line marking on Tasmanian local roads is maintained to a satisfactory and safe standard. Does that mean that you also regularly check the line marking that you are saying currently is the responsibility of the local government? I take it under that you check those lines on local government roads as well? Do you or don't you?

Mr TODD - Our department heads a regular traffic engineering committee meeting with the engineering staff of councils. Some of them are more formal than others. It is usually through that committee that we have that liaison about the lines and issues in their area. But we would also do inspections and assessments as well. So it is really a partnership with the council in identifying those priority areas.

Mr DEAN - I am struggling with the comment made previously that, when it comes down to DIER having the responsibility to ensure that the standard of line marking is retained at an acceptable level, they then say that local government have a responsibility. That would be an interesting legal issue I would think because I suspect if that is right that you would have the right and the ability to say to local government, 'We marked the lines on this street because they are not at an acceptable and safe standard.'

Mr TODD - And we have local government doing their own marking in some cases. Yes, they are doing that.

Mr DEAN - I just wanted that on Hansard for the purpose -

Mr COX - If you resolve this one then you will be the first one in 20 years.

Mr DEAN - It has got to be resolved. I do not think we can sit back and stick our heads in the sand because it will never get it resolved if you do that. That is all I have.

CHAIR - On page 6.15 one of the descriptions in the provision of transport services is to fund cost-effective safety improvements on all roads to reduce the incidence of road crashes. Are those issues incorporated in the capital investment program or do we have a list of specific priorities for this year on particular roads and areas? Can you just expand on that for me?

Mr TODD - Yes there are numbers in the capital investment program. Also, within this output group is the state blackspot program which was recently announced if the minister would like to talk about that. There is a range of projects both on State roads and local roads. Output group 3 includes the State blackspot program but there are a whole range of safety projects that are done under the capital investment program.

CHAIR - It is not touching the road safety levy?

Mr COX - No. The program Mr Todd is talking about includes funding from the state government of $2 million. That has been over a four-year period from 2006 to 2010. That is for local roads only. Under that program MAIB has also partnered with us to provide an additional $3 million. That will be spent over the three-year period of 2006 to 2009 on both local and State roads. We have asked councils to jointly assist in the blackspot projects. That does not touch that funding, no.

CHAIR - Are there any other questions on Traffic Engineering Services? If not, we move to Island Shipping.

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