Towers on their way

Wednesday November 01, 2023

BETTER telecommunication may be on the cards for the Limestone Coast should the federal government commit to its 50 per cent.

The state government announced its contribution to a $27.7m project, committing $5.5m to help install 27 Telstra towers across the region.

The proposed locations of the towers were recently released during the State Government’s Country Cabinet visit last week and include areas such as Shaugh, Sherwood, Mundulla and Western Flat.

Other proposed areas include Reedy Creek, Stewart Range, Taratap, Blackford, Coles, Maaoupe, Penola, Mount McIntyre, Rendelsham, Canunda, Robe and Lake Hawdon.

There will also be towers installed at Beachport, South End, Tantanoola, Kongorong, Conroe, Caroline, Moorak, Yahl, Caveton, OB Flat and Port MacDonnell.

It was recently reported the state government would provide its 20 per cent while Telstra would contribute 25 per cent to the overall cost and local governments would contribute five per cent to its specific tower funding.

It was also announced that the South Australian Forest Production Association would contribute both in-kind and monetarily to the project.

All councils within the Limestone Coast but Naracoorte Lucindale Council had confirmed its contribution.

Last week, Naracoorte Lucindale Council chief executive Trevor Smart stated elected members opted to not contribute its $140,728 over three years due to believing it was not their responsibility as a local government entity to fund what was “the private of federal government’s responsibility”.

During his visit to the Limestone Coast last week, Premier Peter Malinauskas said the Naracoorte Lucindale Council was entitled to a position and it could explain the reasoning for itself.

“My position is that if there is an opportunity for local government to work with the State Government and a big company like Telstra and the federal government to make the project happen then why should we miss out on that opportunity?” Mr Malinauskas said.

“People on the ground, individuals within a community, they don’t want to hear that argy-bargy, they want to see people working together to deliver outcomes.

“We saw an opportunity to be able to do our bit as a state government and that is what Nick McBride and Troy Bell have been seeking to coordinate amongst us all and I think that is a good way of doing business.”

Mr Malinauskas said this would deliver outcomes which were what people cared about and said during his meeting with the Naracoorte Lucindale Council he would not “neglect the opportunity” to discuss how he believed collaboration was in everybody’s interest.

In response, Naracoorte Lucindale Mayor Patrick Ross the elected members discussed it twice and remained firm on its decision.

Mr Ross said Telstra had recently approached him asking whether elected members were inclined to provide an in-kind service.

“I said I would take that to the members and I have spoken to them informally and I will not be putting it as a motion to the chamber,” Mr Ross said.

“The conduct of the chamber is very certain about the way they will vote.”

He said elected members were not opposed to working with other tiers of government in the future and remained firm its intention was to “do the best it could” for the community.

“The elected members of Naracoorte Lucindale Council did not vote against the money, they believe they are not in telecommunications,” Mr Ross said.

“It will be interesting to see whether the federal government comes up with the money.”

In regards to having the telecommunication towers enhancing fire prevention and emergency responses, Mr Ross said he believed the current government-run radio facilities should suffice.

“I do not know how telecommunications will help with fire prevention,” he said.

“At the moment the government radio network is the system all emergency services use here and in Australia that is an incredibly good system.

“We would prefer it if our first responders were not using their mobile phones because it just takes up space on towers unnecessarily.”

Mr Malinauskas said the telecommunications had been an issue in need of being fixed for a “long period of time” with the community being “deprived of access” to the same quality mobile coverage which people in the city “took for granted”.

“It doesn’t just have implications in terms of inconvenience, it also has implications in terms of economic development as not having access to high quality mobile and data coverage means the potential which exists around them is not being fully realised.

“As a state government we have said there are a lot of opportunities in the Limestone Coast which have not been fully realised because of inaction from state governments in the past and now we are putting our money where our mouth is and making this investment to see economic return.”

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TOWER FUNDING: South Australian Forest Products Association chairperson Tammy Auld with Tesltra regional manager Michael Patterson, Member for MacKillop Nick McBride, Premier Peter Malinkauskis, Minister for Emergency Services Joe Szakacs , Member for Mount Gambier Troy Bell and Minister for Regional Development Clare Scriven.