Paul Fletcher to visit Wimmera blackspots

HORSHAM Mayor David Grimble hopes a visit from Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Communications Paul Fletcher will help the rural city secure funding for mobile phone blackspots.

Mr Fletcher will visit the municipality on March 28 in response to council's deputation to Canberra last week.

Cr Grimble said the deputation was well received.

"It was a great opportunity to reinforce the need for mobile coverage in the Wartook Valley, Laharum and Brimpaen areas from a number of aspects," he said.

Cr Grimble said the deputation stressed the impact a lack of coverage had on safety, tourism, businesses and social interaction.

"Residents and tourists are very exposed and vulnerable without mobile phone access," he said.

Cr Grimble said Mr Fletcher would tour the areas hit by January's bushfire and meet with some of the affected residents.

He said he told Mr Fletcher of the possibility of using a Country Fire Authority tower in Smiths Road, Brimpaen, to improve the region's telecommunications.

"I'm going to do some investigating before Mr Fletcher gets here, but the CFA has installed a new tower," he said.

"It's on a secure site, has power, is elevated and has line of sight into the known blackspot areas.

"The CFA would allow it to be used for other communications purposes.

"The last thing you want to do is duplicate infrastructure, particularly when there's limited money available."

Mr Fletcher is responsible for allocating money from the Federal Government's $100-million Mobile Coverage Program.

Horsham Rural City, Wimmera Development Association, Grampians Tourism, Central Highlands councils and individuals have made funding submissions, which closed on February 28.

Laharum resident Judith Berendsen joined the deputation to Canberra.

Mrs Berendsen said lack of coverage was a major safety issue for the region.

She said mobile coverage was non-existent in the Wartook Valley and intermittent at Laharum.

Mrs Berendsen said Mr Fletcher would be able to see the problems first-hand on his visit.

Both Cr Grimble and Mrs Berendsen thanked Member for Mallee Andrew Broad for setting up the meeting.

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