Time to fix blackspots

PRIORITY: Mayor James Trenery canvassed mobile blackspot issues after the Barnawartha fires and said it was Indigo Shire's turn for funding. Picture: MARK JESSER

PRIORITY: Mayor James Trenery canvassed mobile blackspot issues after the Barnawartha fires and said it was Indigo Shire's turn for funding. Picture: MARK JESSER

Six years ago, Alpine Shire’s Cr Jan Vonarx was part of a community resilience committee advocating for better mobile reception following major fires.

Those 2009 fires were to be known as Black Saturday and burned through more than 30,000 hectares of the shire’s land.

“There was no coverage at all,” Cr Vonarx told The Border Mail about trying to use a mobile phone on Black Saturday.

“If another fire came through, it would happen again.”

Alpine Shire was hoping Kancoona could finally win funding in round two of the federal government’s mobile blackspot program in 2016.

“In this day and age, there should be communication for everyone, especially in bushfire-prone areas,” Cr Vonarx said.

Indigo Shire Mayor James Trenery did not want to wait years for a fix after major fires in his region last week highlighted mobile reception issues.

He confirmed bushfire-hit Indigo Valley and two locations on Beechworth-Wodonga Road would make up the council’s blackspot funding application.

Beechworth-Wodonga Road was prioritised for better mobile service because high volumes of traffic increased the risk of crashes.

“You hope safety would come into when it comes to these decisions,” Cr Trenery said.

Indi MP Cathy McGowan called on the councils to offer their own financial contributions and make their projects more attractive to the government.

She said the Indigo Shire told her the funding was not its responsibility.

 “If they’re not going to put any in-kind money into it, they absolutely won’t get anything in this national process,” Ms McGowan said.

The deadline for submissions was extended two weeks until January 15, which the federal member said came after public pressure from people who did not have enough time.

“I think it illustrates the government’s attitude towards this,” Ms McGowan said.

“I think it’s pretty poor.”

She will nominate her three priority areas in January in the hope of a slice of the $60 million she said was not enough for all of Australia.

“Are they going to keep drip feeding us?” Ms McGowan said.

To submit a blackspot nomination, visit www.communications.gov.au.

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