Council: why did it start, where was the safety net?

SOUTH-WEST Victorians want top-level answers on why there was no back-up plan in place after last Thursday’s Telstra exchange fire, Warrnambool City Council has declared.

Mayor Michael Neoh said people wanted to know what action would be taken to prevent another communications blackout.

On Monday night councillors unanimously voted to write to Communications Minister Stephen Conroy and Wannon Liberal MP Dan Tehan seeking answers on what caused the fire and what would be done to mitigate it happening again.

They also called for the  promised NBN high-speed broadband rollout to be brought forward, provided there was adequate back-up.

Less than 24 hours after their vote Senator Conroy told Mr Tehan there would be a full-scale inquiry into the disaster. Hearings are likely to be in Warrnambool and other south-west centres.

Cr Jacinta Ermacora said the community was surprised to discover how much vital infrastructure was housed in the old exchange building in Koroit Street.

“I call on Telstra to consult with the community on how they are going to rebuild and what is the risk of it happening again,” she said.

Cr Peter Sycopoulis queried how NBN would make a difference while Cr Peter Hulin said the outage was a wake-up call for people to realise how dependent they were on technology.

Cr Brian Kelson said the past few days had been horrific for the business community.

“Never did I think that one fire could throw so many people into chaos,” he said.

“As far as retailers are concerned if it happened a week out from Christmas I think you’d find a different approach.

“The cost of doing business has been staggering. We need to make the message clear there must be a back-up plan and we can never ever allow this to happen again.”

The Telstra fire also prompted an addition to the city council’s municipal fire management plan to cover essential communications infrastructure.

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