Wimmera fights for Mobile Coverage Program

SEVERAL Wimmera groups have made submissions to the Federal Government’s $100-million Mobile Coverage Program about the region’s black spots.

Member for Mallee Andrew Broad and his staff, Wimmera Development Association and Central Highlands councils were among those who submitted documents.

All submissions called for investment in the Wimmera’s telecommunications infrastructure.

The report writers all described the state of the region’s existing mobile services as inadequate.

Lack of coverage during fires and floods was a safety concern.

The writers said adequate mobile phone coverage would also enable the Wimmera to grow and prosper.

Mr Broad highlighted the importance of the Mallee electorate when stating his case.

“As one of Australia’s largest food producing and tourism regions, with an estimated gross regional output of $5.3 billion a year, serious consideration should be given to the Mallee electorate,” he said.

He argued improved infrastructure would boost his electorate’s productivity.

“If we can generate this output with inadequate technology, think what we can do with first-world data transfer capabilities,” he told the Mail-Times.

“Just over 1400 individual contacts to this office have been received on this issue, along with representations from peak industry bodies, as well as each of the nine municipalities,” he said.

Wimmera Development Association also argued for investment in new technology, and for service providers to share existing infrastructure.

“This would provide a partial solution in regional areas to maximise the investment and coverage of mobile services,” executive director Jo Bourke said.

“The provision of services to regional and rural areas of Australia is critical to the future economic sustainability of our communities.

“To continue the current arrangements through the Mobile Coverage Program is not acceptable.”

Central Highlands Mayors and CEOs Forum chairman and Ararat Mayor Paul Hooper said about 37,000 people living in the group’s constituent municipalities had inadequate access to reliable mobile coverage.

The forum includes representatives from eight councils, including Ararat Rural City Council and Northern Grampians Shire Council.

Cr Hooper said mobile coverage was lacking not only in people’s homes and businesses, but along some of the state’s main commuting routes.

“We will continue to lobby so funding will be allocated to the Western Highway, the main thoroughfare between Melbourne and Adelaide,” he said.

“The Melbourne to Ballarat rail section is also incredibly busy now, with a lot of people commuting to work daily.

“It’s hard to use mobile phones at all, because of poor coverage.”

He said people expected to be able to do work, or even read emails, during their commute.

“In this day and age, it’s just not good enough,” Cr Hooper said.

Buloke Shire Council also made a submission.

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