Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Black spot anger in Katandra West

One Goulburn Valley town has had enough.

CATHY WALKER June 17, 2014 3:00am

After 17 years in the town, Neale Emmett says mobile reception in Katandra West hasn’t improved a bit.

Mobile mechanic and tow truck operator Dave Dunkley hates nothing more than leaving people stranded on the side of the road with a broken down vehicle.

But that’s the reality sometimes for the Katandra West businessman who last week joined the groundswell of community support for a campaign to get his Goulburn Valley town of around 750 people out of a mobile phone ‘black spot’.

Mr Dunkley described his mobile service as ‘‘shocking’’.

‘‘If someone rings you can’t answer it properly and you don’t know where to go to a call — and yes, there have been times when you leave people stranded.

‘‘By the time you get to a landline or into better reception they have tried to make other arrangements.’’

Despite boasting a giant NBN tower on the footy oval smack in the centre of town, Katandra West has poor to negligible mobile reception and last week at the local store the community presented Senator Bridget McKenzie with a petition calling for urgent action.

She promised to deliver it to the Parliamentary Secretary for Communications Paul Fletcher when parliament resumes in Canberra next week.

‘‘I was on the phone to him as we were driving out here. He kept saying ‘Bridget, you’re cutting out’ and I said ‘yes, and you’ll be hearing more about it next week’,’’ Senator McKenzie said.

She praised the community for being the only one in rural Victoria to make a submission to the Federal Department of Communications’ Mobile Coverage Program.

Katandra West store proprietor Leanne Ireland said it wasn’t unusual to see five or 10 school children lined up along the shop window where sometimes they could ‘‘get one bar’’.

After 17 years in Katandra West, retiree Neale Emmett said he’d ‘‘never had a decent service’’.

‘‘Visitors from Melbourne can’t believe it,’’ Mr Emmett said as he proffered his mobile to be photographed with the ‘no service’ sign on the screen.

His main concern was that Telstra customers in the town now have their landlines connected through the National Broadband Network and when there are NBN outages or power outages the mobile phone becomes the only form of contact.

Victorian Nationals candidate for Shepparton and Katandra West local Greg Barr escorted Senator McKenzie on a tour of the other ‘black spot’ areas on Friday, including Wunghnu, Bunbartha and Kialla.

‘‘We hope to access $100million in Commonwealth funding and $40million from the state; hopefully we can share in some of that,’’ Mr Barr said.

More pictures, page 3.

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