SAVERNAKE’S campaign for almost a decade to have mobile phone coverage is finally over.
Farmers and other residents in the area north of Corowa filled the community hall on Friday for a long overdue celebration of being brought into the 21st century with an acceptable mobile phone coverage.
Completion of a telecommunications tower marks has also enabled residents of neighbouring Rennie to have access to Vodafone’s 4G mobile network with locals also able to choose from more than one service provider.
Ann Sloane has been at the forefront of the fight dating back to the early 2010s when the first of a series of bad accidents occurred on the Riverina Highway and emergency services were hamstrung by almost non-existent mobile phone coverage.
On one occasion they were forced to use two-way radios as their only means of communication.
“We are joining the 21st century,” she said.
Vodafone chief executive Iñaki Berroeta attended the official opening with another tower at nearby Lowesdale to be switched on by the end of the year.
“When different players are sharing the cost it is feasible to bring even to low density areas communication,” he said.
Vodaphone also handed over a $5000 cheque to the NSW Rural Fire Service district manager Pat Westwood.
“To have the ability to contact people in a case of emergency via SMS or phone line message is vital,” he said.
“We are talking about a 50 kilometre stretch of highway where we need to go and check where an accident is,” he said.
Farrer MP Sussan Ley acknowledged Savernake residents had been patient in gaining coverage.
“It has has been a very long journey,” she said.
“To see it come to reality is very special.
“It is a highway, there are accidents, blackspots and if something goes wrong you need to be able to pick up your phone.
“Getting additional support from the telcos and the NSW government is absolutely critical to the program’s success.”
The tower and associated infrastructure at Savernake cost more than $800,000.