Shark Bay Shire calls for action on poor phone coverage which left community “vulnerable” to Seroja

Sam JonesMidwest Times
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Nationals WA leader Mia Davies, Shark Bay Shire chief executive Paul Anderson and local member Vince Catania.
Camera IconNationals WA leader Mia Davies, Shark Bay Shire chief executive Paul Anderson and local member Vince Catania. Credit: Supplied

The Shire of Shark Bay will write to the Federal Government to urge action on unreliable landline and mobile coverage in the region after the community was left in an “extremely vulnerable position” when all phone and internet services dropped out while the town prepared for cyclone Seroja.

In a recent letter to the Shire, State Emergency Services local unit manager Joe Mclaughlin said there was a “major threat to life” due to repeat outages, which often saw residents and visitors unable to make 000 calls.

“I believe that these failures have left the community in an extremely vulnerable position when the only form of contact with the ‘outside’ world was via satellite phone,” he said. “The first incident this year occurred during the critical preparation time a few days before cyclone Seroja passed close to Shark Bay.

“We could not get the latest update of the forecasts and emergency warning to assist our preparations or broadcast warnings and advice to the community.”

Mr Mclaughlin said since the initial outage before cyclone Seroja, there had been a number of other incidents.

“Another communication blackout occurred on Saturday, July 4 ... lasting in excess of 24 hours ,” he said. “I requested the problem be given a high priority as the town was again bursting at the seams with visitors and all businesses had no option but to only accept cash for transactions.”

The July outage was caused by a faulty generator at the Telstra mobile site near the overlander roadhouse, which continues to be used while a damaged mains power cable running from the roadhouse to the mobile site is repaired.

Residents and visitors to Shark Bay took to social media to vent frustration over the outages.
Camera IconResidents and visitors to Shark Bay took to social media to vent frustration over the outages.

Mr Mclaughlin said he believed the problem posed a significant risk to the residents of the town, with no doctor in town meaning any medical assistance must be called in.

North West Central MLA Vince Catania said businesses in the affected area had lost, in some outages, up to 80 per cent of their sales due to payment terminals being down.

“I’ve been told by technicians the replacement of the cable could be completed in three to five days, as soon as somebody was able to make the decision to proceed,” he said.

“With a solution readily at hand, there’s no excuse for Telstra to allow such a vital facility to remain unreliable for so long.”

At the July council meeting, Shire of Shark Bay councillors unanimously voted to lobby Federal Communications Minister Paul Fletcher on the issue.

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