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Saturday, January 21, 2006

West Coast dead zone for phones

West Coast dead zone for phones

PLEAS to improve telephone services on Tasmania's West Coast are falling on deaf ears, according to Mayor Darryl Gerrity.

Cr Gerrity said the council and residents at the remote communities of Trial Harbour and Granville Harbour had been lobbying Telstra and Hydro Tasmania to upgrade sub-standard services on safety grounds.

"There are no mobile telephone services in these areas and although the two towns each have a public telephone, they are provided by the West Coast Council because of Telstra's disinterest," he said.

"We accept that the public telephones in these two towns are not profitable services, but they are vital services for both residents and the many tourists and recreational users who visit the towns."

Cr Gerrity said in addition to lobbying Telstra, the council had been trying to get Hydro Tasmania to help to resolve the issue.

"The solution could be as simple as Hydro Tasmania installing aerials at its wind farms at Trial Harbour, Woolnorth and King Island," Cr Gerrity said.

"If they would do that we could put up relay stations which would provide the whole West Coast with good communications.

"It could also improve communications in Circular Head and on King Island."

Cr Gerrity said Circular Head Mayor Ross Hine and the previous King Island mayor, David Brewster, were also in favour of the plan.

"However, Hydro Tasmania maintains that communication services are not their core business and will not assist."

Cr Gerrity said the West Coast Council also had been unable to gain a commitment from Telstra to improve services.

"Higher aerials are all that is required and they could be installed for the cost of an executive lunch," he said.

Trial Harbour Progress Association president Rodney Evans said lack of phone services was a big issue for the isolated community.

"We have 42 homes here and only seven of them can have telephones because that is the maximum capacity of the current system.

"One of our permanent residents, a mine manager, cannot get access to a telephone line."

Mr Evans said the lack of mobile phone coverage was a big safety concern.

"It is quite common for people to get bogged and to have to walk hours back to town to get help.

"Access to mobile telephone services would also improve sea safety because people could get assistance with just a phone call."

Mr Evans said a recent accident at Trial Harbour highlighted the situation.

"A four-wheel drive went off a cliff and a number of teenagers were trapped inside the car, which was wedged between rocks on the beach below while the tide was coming in.

"If there had been mobile access they could have immediately phoned for help.

"Because they couldn't, someone had to run back to town to raise the alarm."

Hydro Tasmania spokeswoman Helen Brain said she couldn't find any formal approach from Cr Gerrity, but he was welcome to make one.

"However, we aren't in the telecommunications business, we are a power generator and that is our major concern.

"It is a Telstra role to provide those services to the community," Ms Brain said.

Telstra's Northern Tasmania general manager Noel Hunt said there were no plans to extend mobile coverage to Trial Harbour.

"Through the Networking the Nation program we have extended mobile telephone coverage to 65 per cent of Tasmania by installing 30 new base stations," he said.

"Granville Harbour does have coverage but Trial Harbour doesn't because it sits underneath the Zeehan and Mt Read transmitters."

However, Mr Hunt said there was plenty of capacity for fixed land lines in Trial Harbour.

"If anyone at Trial Harbour wants a fixed land line they can have one straight away at standard installation prices."


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