THE south-west is littered with mobile phone blackspots, the latest information from the federal government reveals.
Residents were asked to nominate areas where they experienced poor mobile phone reception and almost 150 have been identified in the district.
Corangamite Shire Council has called on Minister for Regional Communications Bridget McKenzie and Member for Wannon Dan Tehan to attend a public meeting to discuss a major blackspot in the shire.
Councillor Neil Trotter said there were a large number of residents in the Scotts Creek area who had no access to phone services during the St Patrick’s Day bushfires.
“There were fires in the Scotts Creek area that impacted quite a number of families and most people had no communication,” Mr Trotter said.
Cr Trotter said he was extremely relieved no one was killed or seriously injured as a result of the issue.
“A lot of people learnt the lesson from the Ash Wednesday and Mansfield fires and left early,” he said.
“The others who stayed were equipped to fight.”
However, Cr Trotter said there were a number of residents who left the area via unsafe routes.
“We had the problem where people were leaving on unsafe roads,” he said.
“There were limbs down on roads which caused a number of car accidents and even fire crews had issues with their communication.”
Cr Trotter said the council had passed a motion to contact Ms McKenzie and Mr Tehan to ask them to attend a forum about the blackspot.
“The Scotts Creek area is notorious for being a blackspot and we’re looking at going into another fire season with no mobile coverage to that area,” he said.
“It’s one of the things I’d like to see in place before the summer.”
Corangamite Shire Council mayor Jo Beard said ensuring residents had access to information during emergencies such as bushfires was a priority.
“After the St Patrick’s Day fires it was evident it could have been the difference between life and death,” Cr Beard said.
Member for Wannon Dan Tehan said the issue of mobile phone blackspots in the south-west had been highlighted during the St Patrick’s Day fires.
“It continues to be a priority issue, especially after what we saw during the fires,” Mr Tehan said.
Hawkesdale and Scotts Creek were two areas that were identified as priority areas in the wake of the fires, he said. He said there had been 17 new mobile base stations installed in the Wannon electorate in recent years.
High cost for peace of mind
NULLAWARRE’S Colin Collet decided to invest in an aerial for peace of mind after the St Patrick’s Day fires.
The 73-year-old was close to leaving his property, based on advice on the radio.
But he was concerned – due to poor coverage where he lives – he wouldn’t receive emergency notifications on his mobile phone.
“When the fires came through this year I was sitting by the wireless because that was the only way I was getting information,” he said.
“If people weren’t listening (to the radio) they wouldn’t have known what was going on.”
Mr Collet, a pensioner, said he was stunned to receive a bill for almost $2000 after having a new antenna installed.
“I’m 73 years old and a fairly active guy. If I was to have a fall on my property and wasn’t able to get to the landline, I was worried about whether my mobile phone would work,” he said.
However, he said he was shocked at the high cost of the installation. “I think it’s unreasonable,” Mr Collet said.