Lack of mobile coverage left a community stranded during floods.
Lack of mobile coverage left a community stranded during floods. Tony Martin

Lack of mobile coverage left community stranded during flood

CUT off and alone, a Winfield man says he was terrified during the flood disaster earlier in the year because there was no communication available.

John Seesink said he felt isolated and neglected along with 12 others living in a small Winfield community during the worst natural disaster to hit the Bundaberg region.

"It was very scary because mobile phones don't work here," he said.

"Communication is a hell of a problem."

Mr Seesink, 74, said not being able to communicate with emergency services during the massive recovery operation meant supplies were misdirected.

"We managed to get a chopper drop organised but because of a lack of communication it flew straight over the top of us and went somewhere else," he said.

"We were completely neglected for about three or four days but luckily we had a couple of generators to maintain whatever food was available."

The news comes as the NewsMail recently asked its readers to nominate some of the worst black spots in the region and was overwhelmed with responses.

A spokesman for the Federal Minister for Regional Communities Sharon Bird said the government did not own a mobile carrier and no longer had a say in where new mobile towers were built.

"The extension of rural mobile coverage is therefore a commercial decision," he said.

"In areas of Australia that are less-populated or have little passing traffic, often the only option for people wanting to make a mobile phone call is via satellite."

The spokesman said the Satellite Phone Subsidy Scheme provided funding to improve the affordability of mobile satellite phone handsets.

"To date, the scheme has provided approximately 24,000 mobile satellite phone subsidies," he said.

"This means that a large number of Australians living, working or travelling in areas without terrestrial mobile phone coverage are now able to communicate using a satellite phone, including in emergency situations."

The spokesman said the rollout of the National Broadband Network (NBN) was seeing the construction of many new fixed wireless towers designed to provide broadband services to a range of locations across Australia, including in rural areas across the Bundaberg region.

"NBN Co, Telstra and Optus have entered into agreements to share tower infrastructure and these are very positive developments which have the potential to improve mobile coverage in regional Australia," he said.

North Burnett Mayor Don Waugh said while it was great that the NBN would increase coverage in the area, with the Labor plan set to % be completed by 2021 he % had more immediate concerns.

"The concern is what happens in the meantime and at this stage there is nothing," he said.

"Before the floods we had bushfires in Mundubbera and the one of the big factors there was a loss of communication."

Cr Waugh said the only avenue he had open was UHF radio, which was what council was looking at now.



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