Wednesday, 16 January 2019

Blocked phone tower applications caused blackspot in bushfire ravaged town

  dereel long


The CFA said patchy mobile phone coverage in Dereel made emergency coordination difficult.

Residents of Dereel in Western Victoria, who claim their lives were put at risk from patchy mobile coverage during a March bushfire, have demanded answers as to why phone tower applications to provide vital mobile coverage to the fire prone area were rejected.
In March bushfires in the south east of the Victorian township of Dereel, fanned by high winds, engulfed 1300 hectares, destroyed 16 homes and left four CFA volunteers in hospital.
Dereel CFA captain Darryn Hill told The Ballarat Courier the poor mobile-phone service had affected the co-ordination effort at the fire.
“I absolutely had no reception. I was lucky I had my radio with me so I could get through.”
Currently, Dereel’s coverage comes from a tower at Buninyong, which provides a weak signal to the area.
Victorian Premier, Denis Napthine, who attended a Dereel community meeting after the bushfires was told by residents that the area “desperately needed” a mobile-phone tower.
Mr Napthine made a commitment to take the issue up with Telstra and the prime minister.
“We’re a relatively small state in Victoria. There should be nowhere with black spots, particularly somewhere like this,” he told The Ballarat Courier.
Telstra spokesperson James Howe said a tower had been planned for Dereel but would be moved to the nearby town of Rokewood after residents objected. He said the tower was planned to be built in the next financial year.
A number of proposed mobile phone towers in the area have been blocked due to strong local community activism.
The community group - Dereel Anti Tower Alliance (DATA) – is also opposed to National Broadband Network (NBN) base stations and have set-up a website ( to oppose any base stations proposed in the local area.
Earlier this year, Win News ran a television news story about a local resident’s opposition to the NBN tower in which she claims she is hypersensitive to radio waves.
Although some Dereel residents have argued for the need for the NBN and better mobile phone coverage on the local community website, to date DATA have successfully prevented any base station applications.
In 2008 Optus also proposed a mobile phone base station in Dereel, but withdrew the application due to community opposition. In 2010 Optus installed a base station in Rokewood, which is located just south of Dereel.

“While it isn’t always feasible to provide small rural communities with mobile phone coverage, in this case carriers have tried to provide coverage but have faced strong community opposition from some residents,” Manager Mobile Carriers Forum Ray McKenzie said.


Optus and Telstra have diverted planned base stations to nearby

Rokewood after facing community opposition in Dereel.


View The Dereel fire area and road closures. in a larger map

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