Road Classification in Tasmania

What are road classifications and why are they used?

Road classification is a mechanism used by the State Government, through the Department of Infrastructure, Energy and Resources (DIER), to assist asset management. Classifying roads allows a hierarchy of strategic importance, management responsibility and funding priority to be established, usually within a legislative framework.

How does the Tasmanian system work?

The legislation governing the classification of Tasmania’s road network is the Roads and Jetties Act 1935. Under Section 7 of the Act, Tasmanian roads can be declared as:

  • State Highways; or
  • Subsidiary Roads

‘Subsidiary Roads’ is not a classification itself, but is instead split further into four categories, viz:

  • Main Roads
  • Secondary Roads
  • Tourist Roads
  • Development Road

These roads, classified under the Roads and Jetties Act 1935, form the State Road Network of which the DIER is the owner, manager and financier. Other roads which are not classified under the Act fall under the jurisdiction of Local Government, Forestry Tasmania, Hydro Tasmania or the Parks and Wildlife Service, depending on their location.

Proclamations under the Act are made by the Governor of Tasmania, usually at the recommendation of the DIER and the direction of the Minister for Infrastructure.

How are classified roads numbered and/or named?

Tasmania, unlike most other states, does not classify its roads proclaimed under the Roads and Jetties Act 1935 – instead proclamations under the Act refer to a specific name. For example, the Midland Highway is proclaimed a ‘State Highway’ under the Act and rather than refer to it by a number, proclamations refer to it solely as ‘Midland Highway’. In similar fashion, the road between the Midland Highway near Conara Junction and the Tasman Highway near St Mary’s is proclaimed a ‘Main Road’ under the Act and its name is ‘Esk Main Road’.

But what about those numbers I see on directional signs?

The numbers that you see on directional signs are part of an entirely different system. This system is known as the ‘Route Number Coding System’, or commonly known as a ‘route marking system’, and was introduced by the former Department of Main Roads (predecessor, by some years, of the DIER) to aid navigation for road users across the state. This system classes routes by their importance as strategic routes in terms of guiding motorists around the state, thus some inconsistencies with the classified roads do occur.

More information on this system can be found HERE.

What are limited-access roads?

Under Section 52A of the Roads and Jetties Acts 1935 the Governor of Tasmania has the power to declare any ‘State Highway’ or ‘Subsidiary Road’ or part of a ‘State Highway’ or ‘Subsidiary Road’ to be a ‘limited-access road’. This does not change the classification of a road – i.e. a road can be a ‘State Highway’ (or other class of road) at the same as being as ‘limited-access road’. What it does do is limit access from adjoining properties onto and across the road reserve – thereby allowing the DIER to restrict the number and location of entrances to the limited-access road, thereby preventing ribbon development from occurring and allow the DIER to adequately plan intersections with the limited-access roads to handle future growth.

Proclamation as a ‘limited-access road’ does not necessarily mean that access from all adjacent properties will be prohibited – the DIER can issue licenses which restrict the number and location of accesses for each property and also make licenses conditional upon the use of the land for a specific purpose. For example, the DIER might give a license to an owner of a piece of land for one access point, located in a specific location, provided that the property continues to be used solely for rural purposes. This serves the limit the traffic entering and exiting the access points and restricting heavier flows to intersections that are designed to handle them safely.

In proclaiming a limited-access road, compensation is usually payable to the owner(s) of adjacent properties. In calculating the amount of compensation to be paid, several factors are taken into account, including the proximity of the property to alternative access points to the limited-access road (e.g. a nearby local road), severance of the property, and loss of trade (in the case of a business that relies on passing trade).

Locations of future classified roads

Under section 9A of the Roads and Jetties Act 1935, the Governor of Tasmania has the power to proclaim the future route of any State Highway or proclaim the route of a future State Highway (the difference being that one is concerned with the relocation of an existing road; the other is concerned with the location of future roads). The Governor also has the power to proclaim these future routes as limited-access roads. Acquisition of land is not always immediate; rather restrictions are placed on the development of the land required for future roads, such as prohibiting the erection of permanent buildings.

These powers are similar to those of zoning land as ‘Road Reservation’, ‘Infrastructure’ or ‘County Road Reservation’, as is the practice in New South Wales planning instruments.

Historical Notes

The classification of State Highways and Subsidiary Roads began prior to the enactment of the Roads and Jetties Act 1935. Earlier pieces of legislation included:

  • The Main Roads Maintenance Act, 1918
  • The Repairs to Roads Act, 1920
  • The Repairs to Roads Act, 1925
  • The Main Roads Maintenance Act, 1926
  • The Main Roads Maintenance Act, 1928
  • The Public Works (Restoration of Roads and Bridges) Execution Act, 1929
  • The Public Works (Restoration of Roads and Bridges) Execution Act (No. 2), 1929
  • The State Highways Maintenance Act, 1929
  • The State Highways Maintenance Act, 1930
  • The State Highways Maintenance Act, 1933

From looking at the titles of these pieces of legislation - I am yet to obtain copies of them to review myself - it seems that interim arrangements were made over a number of years until a suitably powerful and comprehensive piece of legislation could be drafted and enacted. Judging by the last three titles, it seems a system of State Highways and Main Roads was in existence prior to the enactment of the current legislation - the Roads and Jetties Act 1935. I will endeavour to investigate this further - if you have any information please email me (see contact on home page).

A network of State Highways and Main Roads was established very soon after the enactment of the current legislation, comprising a network of roads it was envisaged would become the main traffic arteries across the State. However, with time comes changes in development patterns and advances in road construction technology which impact on the locations where highways and main roads can be constructed. Other than re-declarations associated with the relocation of highways and subsidiary roads, the classified road system has changed few times since the enactment of the Roads and Jetties Act 1935.

A major review of the classified road system was undertaken in the late 1960s, culminating in 1970 with the revocation of all road classifications and the re-declaration of the entire network, with several significant changes.

More information on the 1970 Review of Classified Roads can be found HERE (Coming Soon).

More recently, two former ‘State Highways’ – the Marlborough Highway and Lake Highway – were decommissioned and reclassified as ‘Secondary Roads’.


  • Department of Premier and Cabinet, 2006, Tasmanian Legislation Online [Online], Available from: Accessed: 30 November 2006
  • Personal correspondance with Department of Infastructure, Energy and Resources
  • Roads and Jetties Act 1935

Back to Tasmania HOME