Wait and see on Savernake blackspot

Parliamentary secretary for communications Paul Fletcher and Sussan Ley could not give any guarantees yesterday about fixing the Savernake area’s mobile phone blackspot. Picture: MATTHEW SMITHWICK

Parliamentary secretary for communications Paul Fletcher and Sussan Ley could not give any guarantees yesterday about fixing the Savernake area’s mobile phone blackspot. Picture: MATTHEW SMITHWICK

FRUSTRATED Savernake and district residents must wait a year to find out whether they have secured a slice of $100 million in federal funding to fix their mobile phone blackspot.

The parliamentary secretary for communications Paul Fletcher was yesterday told by 60 angry locals of tragedies and missed business opportunities due to the lack of adequate mobile reception.

But Mr Fletcher couldn’t say whether Savernake and Rennie would be included in the $100 million roll out.

EDITORIAL:Answer call of Savernake

Successful applicants will be announced early next year and towers built later in the year.

“We are a big country and there is a lot of need,” he said.

“Sussan Ley (the member for Farrer) has been making a strong case on behalf of Savernake.

“We’ve heard people today talk about accidents and medical emergencies and people no longer with us who might have been if there was better coverage.”

Mr Fletcher was joined on his tour by Ms Ley, who said Savernake had its best chance yet to fix the problem.

It was revealed at the lunch time meeting that the area’s communication difficulties were not only about the lack of mobile phone coverage.

Recent rain had knocked out landline phone coverage for nearly a week and farmers who were cropping were forced to move about their properties to find a mobile signal strong enough to make a call.

The line in the Rennie-Ringwood Road area was attached to a barb wire fence and could be cut at any stage.

Rural Fire Service group officer Greyd’n Davis said the area was paying for its location.

“We are an hour from Albury and an hour from Deniliquin,” he said.

“It seems our worst accidents occur where the worst coverage is.”

He said there had been four recent fatalities and co-ordinating the emergency response was made harder by the lack of mobile coverage.

“It’s a real problem,” he said.

Riverine Plains farming group member Jan Davis said farmers were at a huge disadvantage due to the lack of basic phone coverage.

“We are losing business opportunities,” she said. “Grain marketing is done in real time and most marketers use SMS.

“We don’t mind living in some isolation, but would like contact with the outside to be on a level footing.”

Rennie Football-Netball Club secretary Bronwyn Thomas said the lack of coverage made it hard to operate the club’s four football and eight netball teams.

“The biggest issue is the co-ordination of emergency services in the event of a bad injury,” she said.

Transport operator Huwy Gorman, who has no coverage at home, has resorted to having a mobile phone at a house in nearby Berrigan to take calls from farmers wanting him to cart stock.

Ms Ley said Savernake had a legitimate case for funding.

“I said we would have a mobile phone black- spot program and I would put Savernake at the top of the list because of the incidents and accidents we’ve experienced here,” she said.

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