MOBILE telephone connectivity further expansions will be largely based on emergency service communications, according to the responsible state minister.
Minister for Trade and Investment, Innovation and the Digital Economy and Small Business, Phillip Dalidakis, was in Warrnambool on Thursday for roundtable discussions on phone and internet connectivity with businesses, services and community leaders.
He is in the south-west for a two-day tour at the invitation of Western District MP James Purcell, who last week announced he would be standing for the lower house seat of South West Coast in next month’s state election.
Mr Dalidakis said the state government had undertaken an independent process to prioritise mobile phone infrastructure expansions.
He said the key factor in any plan would be communications in emergency situations for emergency services and other users.
Mr Dalidakis said the government took on board community input and feedback from local government.
He said recent fires, including near Apollo Bay in 2015, highlighted risk areas.
But, Mr Dalidakis said it was unlikely there would ever be 100 percent coverage across the state because some people lived in very remote areas.
Mr Dalidakis will also meet with Country Fire Authority representatives at Gorae West to hear and experience the difficulties poor coverage and mobile black-spots cause in fire emergencies.
"I invited the minister to visit the south-west region and hear first-hand the issues and frustrations experienced by locals businesses and emergency services because of mobile coverage black spots and poor internet services," Mr Purcell said.
"We're very please to be able to show him how bad it is at Gorae West, in particular, where firefighters struggle during bushfire season to keep in touch with each other and their base."
Mr Purcell said the St Patrick's day fires last summer highlighted that black spots had the potential to put lives at risk.
"Fire is unfortunately a regular occurrence in regional Victoria and poor communication services add unnecessary stress and confusion to these life-and-death situations," Mr Purcell said.
"Proper consultation with communities and fire services is essential before new tower locations were decided on."
Gorae West has been identified as one of the major problem spots in Mr Purcell's recent online survey asking for input into where the worst black-spots were located.
"It's only through proper consultation with the community that sites like this get the attention they deserve. Otherwise we're reliant on telecommunications companies telling us where they think the need is," Mr Purcell said.
The Labor Government's mobile blackspot program has allocated $11 million to solving blackspot issues across the state, putting emphasis on the need for community consultation to identify locations.
"In south-west Victoria there are many places including areas in and around Portland and Hawkesdale, which need a mobile tower desperately," Mr Purcell said.