Black spot phone farce

FIXING the lousy mobile phone reception at one of the region’s most popular recreational spots is literally a matter of life and death, according to those lobbying for improved service. Tens of thousands of people flock to the idyllic Lake Copeton outside Inverell each year to enjoy the boating, biking, camping, sporting, fishing and function facilities on offer.

But the complete absence of mobile reception across much of the park means in the event of an accident the chances of being able to contact authorities for help is slim.

It is this nightmare scenario that has Copeton Waters State Park manager David Allan calling for the federal government to stump up the cash to erect a phone tower in the area.

At the last election, the Coalition created a $100 million fund to improve mobile phone coverage in outer metropolitan, regional and remote communities.

Mr Allan said the safety of park users was his foremost concern and a new tower with a signal that can penetrate the valley must be made a priority.

“We had an incident on New Year’s Eve where a car ran off the road and hit a tree just before midnight,” he said.

“The only contact we could make with emergency services was to say ‘car accident Copeton’.

“We had every emergency service available heading towards Copeton because they had no idea what they were dealing with because we couldn’t make decent contact.”

Inverell councillor David Jones has been campaigning for 12 years to have a tower installed to solve not only Copeton’s problems but those of the surrounding villages.

He estimates the cost of erecting a 30m tower at Fig Tree Hill and all other associated works would come to about $280,000.

“There is an emergency system at the office so that if there is an accident people can communicate, but it might take people half and hour to get to it, depending on where they are in the park,” he said.

“And that can be the difference between life and death.”

Mr Allan also said the park’s lack of coverage threatened to be a turn-off for visitors increasingly reliant on their phones for both business and pleasure.

“During the Christmas and New Year period we had between 10,000 and 11,000 staying on the park, which is basically like having a small town but without communication,” he said.

“We missed a big (conference booking) with the Commonwealth Bank last year that would have been $4000 or $5000 to the park for that weekend.

“It was a major blow to miss that simply because of the unreliability of the mobile coverage, so it’s certainly an issue that we feel needs investigating.”

Anyone wishing to nominate a black spot for funding is urged to contact the office of New England MP Barnaby Joyce on 6761 3080 before February 28.

n Do you live in a mobile phone black spot? Is poor reception hurting your business or posing a safety risk? If so, please 

contact The Leader on mail.ndl@ruralpress.com.au to tell your story.

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