Left without service: Wimmera bushfires reinforce need for improved mobile coverage

WIMMERA-MALLEE politicians have once again stressed the need for improved mobile phone coverage in the region after fire-fighters were left without service on the frontlines.

Member for Lowan Hugh Delahunty wants the Federal Government to come good on its election promise of money to reduce mobile phone black spots.

Yaapeet woman Jan Edelsten slammed the lack of mobile phone coverage in the area in Friday’s Mail-Times after fires in the Mallee.

“We’ve got a desperate need for a mobile phone service,” she said.

“Emergency services out in the fires – they haven’t got any service, just their radios.

“Strike teams can’t contact their families after fighting fires to let them know they’re safe.”

Mr Delahunty said he raised the communications issue again with cabinet on Monday.

“Mobile phone coverage is so critical for safety,” he said.

“I know we’ve got radios, but most people have mobile phones and that’s the mode of communication people prefer to use.”

Horsham, West Wimmera, Hindmarsh and Northern Grampians councils have consistently lobbied the Federal Government for improved mobile phone coverage.

Member for Mallee Andrew Broad said he would contact parliamentary secretary to the Minister for Communications Paul Fletcher about the need to fast-track spending on eliminating the electorate’s black spots.

Mr Broad met with Premier Denis Napthine and Northern Grampians Shire councillors in Stawell on Saturday to survey Grampians fire damage.

“The Prime Minister rang me on Saturday morning to pass on his comments and I’ll be getting a full briefing across to him once the dust settles,” he said.

Mr Broad said the State Government would need to determine whether the damage was significant enough to ask the Federal Goverment to trigger its National Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements.

He said he hoped people would support communities affected by bushfires in the short-term by boosting tourism in the electorate.

“The other thing we need to get out there is that Halls Gap is okay and that it is a wonderful place for people to come and visit,” he said.

Mr Delahunty said Wimmera residents also needed to remember the smaller communities such as Wartook, Roses Gap and Laharum that were more directly impacted by bushfire.

“It’s important that we keep these communities in the front of our mind,” he said.

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