Support needed for upgrade of communications tower

July 22, 2010

The search is continuing for a location suitable to establish a communications tower in the Copeton Dam/Keera area.

Last week the Regional Manager of Telstra, Richard Bourne met with Gwydir Shire representative Peter Pankhurst and John Whitfeld.

Mr Whitfeld is working hard to see some sort of communications established in his area. The issue became a top priority for him after the Christmas bushfires that ravaged the area magnified the danger to the community when there is no reception for telephones or radio around Keera and Copeton Dam.

Mr Whitfeld told the Advocate that there are a couple of possibilities that were identified, one being a disused Telstra tower at Messines. The tower is at present idle, yet it is connected to power and fibre optic cable. At present it is used for about two hours a day. According to Councillor Peter Pankhurst, it would be helpful if the other agencies in the area such as the SES, the Rural Fire Service and the National Parks and Wildlife Service became involved.

Telstra needs to undertake a study to determine the reception capacity of the tower as well as coming back to look at the possible communication sites around Copeton Dam.

Local SES Controller, Peter O’Brien is well aware of the need for a major upgrade of communications in the Keera Copeton Dam area.

Peter O’Brien, Gwydir Shire SES Local Controller, is in agreement that a mobile phone tower at the Copeton Dam wall would be a good idea. He said that with regard to the communication and mobile phone reception in the Lake Copeton area, as well as the Towarra and Keera properties, Wearnes Rd and the Gwydir River below Lake Copeton located in the south east corner of the Gwydir Shire, the following are the main concerns:

I have been involved in emergency situations around this area for the last 25 years. Communication has always been difficult. The idea of a mobile phone tower at the Lake Copeton wall seems to be a very good suggestion.

We have conducted searches, assisted with bushfires and have responded to accidents which were all in the Lake Copeton area or along the Gwydir River below the wall and further down the river.

As a part of my role, I need to communicate with the leaders of the other emergency services. This can only be carried out by phone or in person, as the sensitive nature of some of the communications makes radio inappropriate. Telephone communications would make a significant difference in how each operation is carried out.

I have found in the past that until something does go wrong no one seems to care. I know that this area will once again be involved in some sort of major emergency, so for the sake of the communities, and visitors, as well as the emergency services that are expected to operate at a high level of professionalism, we need to have something put in place sooner rather than later.