IT IS hoped a “show and tell” tour of one of the region’s worst mobile phone blackspots will ensure the site is at the forefront of the Abbott government’s thinking when $100 million set aside to improve coverage is handed out.
Last Friday, at the invitation of New England MP Barnaby Joyce, the federal parliamentary secretary to the Minister for Communications, Paul Fletcher, the Liberal member for Bradfield, visited Copeton Dam near Inverell.
Large swathes of the popular tourist destination, which draws more than 80,000 visitors a year, are devoid of mobile phone coverage, proving a deterrent to visitors and posing potential safety risks.
For years Inverell Shire Council, park manager David Allan and others have lobbied for the erection of a phone tower at Fig Tree Hill – at an estimated cost of about $300,000 – and the $100 million fund appears the best chance yet.
Inverell mayor Paul Harmon, who accompanied Mr Joyce and Mr Fletcher on their tour of the dam, said the site had strong claims for funding under both safety and seasonal population growth criteria.
“There were no promises made today in regards to whether it would be funded, but certainly there was a positivity about the presentation,” Cr Harmon told The Leader on Friday.
“On a given day over the Christmas break, there were 10,000 people actually in the park, which constitutes a small village,” he said.
“So when you’re talking about the fact that there’s no mobile coverage, or it’s very limited and sporadic, it was highlighted to Mr Joyce and Mr Fletcher that if there is an accident – be it on the water, water’s edge or out in the park ... you actually have to make your way to the office to make a call using a landline.
“To demonstrate its commitment to getting the tower installed, the council informed Mr Fletcher it would be willing to contribute $20,000 in cash and in-kind services to the project.
“Funding will be allocated on a competitive basis and I can see these communities are determined to make a good case,” Mr Fletcher said.