The system of choosing locations for blackspot funding based more on revenue for telcos than the emergency management threat has been slammed by Indigo Council's chief executive.
Trevor Ierino was among council representatives from across Australia to give evidence at Wednesday's hearing of the National Natural Disaster Arrangements Royal Commission.
He told commissioners about the lack of mobile service along major roads leading in and out of Beechworth, saying that if anyone had to evacuate, they would not be able to get updates on conditions.
This again became apparent during the summer bushfires.
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"People were on constant alert about those fires and communications were important. The lack of communication in the whole area was a problem," Mr Ierino said.
"Our concerns are that, as we understand it, the priorities for blackspots programs are revenues for telcos themselves and that emergency management doesn't feature high on prioritisation for blackspots.
"We would ask more consideration be given to emergency management."
The lack of communication in the whole area was a problem.Indigo CEO Trevor Ierino
He reiterated comments made in Indigo Council's submission that businesses should have been given access to $10,000 grants the same time as areas such as Alpine and Towong, and there needed to be better messaging from the Victorian government on "neighbourhood safer places".
The issue was with their description as "places of last resort".
"There's a misnomer around the community, particularly around Beechworth because we're surrounded by forest, we're up on a plateau and there's limited safe access in and out," Mr Ierino said.
"You may die there just as you would at home.
"The message isn't getting out there - people believe that there is a refuge there, that there is a shelter, that there will be facilities, and there just aren't."
Commissioners asked what role the Victorian government played in coordinating services between councils, but Indigo community and economic development director Mark Florence said the help and staff members sent to Towong came from unofficial cooperation between the neighbouring shires.
"Small rural shires do the best they can with what they've got, but in some cases it's not much and it's I think beholden on the governments of the day to provide greater coordination," he said.
"It's quite a challenge for small rural shires and a very unfair expectation for governments and community to expect shires the size of ours and Alpine and Towong and others - where most of these natural disasters take place, particular bushfires - to take the full load of relief and recover responsibilities. To be blunt."
He said Indigo staff had one eye back over their shoulder in case fire started in their region while they were helping elsewhere.
Towong Council planning director Amanda Pagan also told the Royal Commission how residents who had already been victims of the bushfires were hit again soon afterwards with landslides.
They were refused government funding assistance because the incident was not deemed a direct result of bushfires.
One resident had to pay $2500 to remove rubble from his property.
"The amount of public land that was coming down into people's properties was increased because of the fallout of the fire," Ms Pagan said.