February 4, 2022
New report finds Indi’s success at mobile black spot funding thanks to independents
A new report has found Indi is the most successful electorate in Victoria, and the fourth most successful nationwide, when it comes to securing federal funding for new mobile phone towers.
The Connecting Indi report, published by the Independent Federal Member for Indi Helen Haines, analysed a decade of government data compiled by the Australian Parliamentary Library since the inception of the $380 million Mobile Black Spot Program in 2013, the same year that the electorate of Indi elected its first independent MP.
More than 65 towers have been built or upgraded across Indi since 2013, from Cudgewa to Kinglake. In the most recent round, towers were funded in Burrowye, Koetong, Tawonga and Frenchman’s Gap.
“By working together as a community, we have had tremendous success under the federal black spot program,” Dr Haines said.
“But when it comes to better mobile coverage, there is always more work to do. There are still so many critical black spots that need funding, especially on major tourist and commuting throughfares like Wangaratta-Beechworth Road, tourist hotspots like the Violet Town markets, and in bushfire areas where we simply cannot afford to have outages.”
Dr Haines also acknowledged areas that aren’t considered black spots, but have high demands from the growing population and at peak tourist times, need to be addressed by Government and telcos.
“We have some of the best attractions for tourists in all of Victoria, but I hear from businesses in towns like Mansfield and Bright, that when they are at their busiest, the internet can’t keep up. It’s holding back our local economies.”
Alongside the report, Dr Haines announced that, if re-elected, she would work to increase the amount of funding available for new mobile towers from $500,000 to $1 million. Dr Haines also released a list of twenty priority black spots that need funding as a place to start.
“People contact my office every day about phone and internet issues and the stories are harrowing. This week I heard a story where the phone was dropping out during a call to 000, and from an elderly whose car broke down on a country road with no signal to get help.
“Working with the Indi Telecommunications Advisory Group (ITAG), my office tracks the location of mobile black spots, and we know where funding is needed.
The Indi Telecommunications Advisory Group (ITAG) was established by former member for Indi Cathy McGowan and continued by Dr Haines, a consultative committee comprising representatives from all nine local government areas across Indi as well as representatives from Telstra, NBN Co., and other telecommunication companies.
“Our success is all thanks to everyday people in our communities coming together and working with my office to identify priority mobile black spots which need fixing and put a compelling case to forward for funding that is community-led, transparent and responds to real need,” Dr Haines said.
“These results show independents can and do deliver on the ground where it matters.”
“I never take our success with programs like this for granted, and I’m committed to keeping Indi at the top of the table when it comes to critical infrastructure funding like this.”
The Connecting Indi report will be launched on Friday at the Plough Inn on Wangaratta-Beechworth Road in Tarrawingee, one of more than 20 mobile black spot locations that Dr Haines is committed to securing funding for if reelected at the next federal election.
Dr Haines will be joined by local business owners, community members and representatives from ITAG at the event.
“We track black spots closely and ITAG knows exactly where we need funding. The real bottleneck is with the government and releasing new funds quickly.” Said Dr Haines.
Small business owner Suzy van der Vies from Taggerty said a new tower in her town was making a difference.
“New towers ensure we have more reliable connectivity, and our access is less affected by heavy rain, smoke from bushfires and extra load to the net during holiday periods” said Ms van der Vies.
The mobile phone black spot commitment is the second announcement on phone and internet policy Dr Haines made this week.
Earlier in the week, Dr Haines announced she would be working to secure federal government funding to truly complete the NBN build in Indi.
Endorsements of ITAG
“Indigo Shire Council acknowledges and applauds the leadership of Helen Haines on the issue of black spot mitigation through our regional collaboration, ITAG.
Effective digital coverage and connectivity is the most significant enabler for Indigo Shire’s economic and social wellbeing.
Indigo’s disaster management capability is challenged considerably by black spots; the risk of catastrophic impact is likely without immediate improvements to infrastructure.
A cohesive and coordinated approach to this complex challenge is essential for smaller communities like ours, and Indigo Shire will continue to contribute and rely heavily on ITAG and our Federal Member for critical improvements.”
Economic Development & Investment Coordinator
Indigo Shire Council
“ITAG has proved what can happen when a group of concerned Councils, industry and citizens come together to create community-led regional communications priorities.
Together we have been stronger due to a collaborative, transparent approach, ably facilitated by the Independent members for Indi – Cathy McGowan (2013-2019) and Helen Haines MP (2019 – present).
Benalla Rural City Council will continue to support ITAG’s aim of providing equitable and cost-effective essential telecommunications services to everyone – no matter where they live.”
Business Development Coordinator
Benalla Rural City Council