REGION - Northern Grampians Shire Council is thrilled the Coalition has placed improved mobile telephone coverage high on the agenda in the lead up to the federal election.
The Coalition has announced it will invest $100 million to improve mobile phone coverage in regional and remote areas.
This will ensure current blackspots in areas including Halls Gap, Navarre, Banyena and Marnoo will be eliminated.
Cr Kevin Erwin has campaigned strongly for many years to have telecommunications improved, particularly in rural areas of the shire.
Cr Erwin said it would make sense for coverage to be improved.
"It will be really good if it comes off," he said.
"There are a lot of communities who are concerned about mobile telephone blackspots and rightly so. If the Coalition is promising they will fix the problem if elected to government, it will be very pleasing to a lot of people."
Cr Erwin said while Halls Gap, Navarre and Marnoo were the areas most affected, there are blackspots as well in and around Great Western.
"When you look at how important tourism is to our region, this problem does need to be fixed," Cr Erwin said.
"The ability for tourists to use their i-Phones while visiting is very important these days.
"We really have to get into the 21st century.
"A lot of people have also said that if you are in a paddock injured in the middle of nowhere and you can't use your mobile phone to call an ambulance, then what's the point. We really need that coverage for peoples' safety.
"If it does come off, it will mean a lot to people in our area. These people have been waiting a long time for phone services to be improved."
Council was represented at the recent Central Highlands Mayors and CEOs Forum, where there was overwhelming support for the Coalition's funding commitment.
Forum chair, Cr Pat Toohey, said the forum had identified Regional Telecommunications Services as one of its four key priorities for the region.
"We understand how important adequate mobile phone service is to our businesses, our tourism industry and more importantly the safety of our people and communities," Cr Toohey said.
"The communities, in which we work, live and operate in, have expressed their frustration with the many pockets of mobile phone black spots scattered throughout our region.
"Over the past 12 months we have worked tirelessly in lobbying the Federal Government and Opposition in improving the telecommunications services in regional areas."
Delegates from the Forum travelled to Canberra earlier this year to meet with Government and Opposition members to outline its concerns in relation to poor telecommunications services in the Central Highlands region.
The Central Highlands Mayors and CEO Forum included representatives from Ararat Rural City Council, Central Goldfields Shire Council, City of Ballarat, Golden Plains Shire Council, Hepburn Shire Council, Moorabool Shire Council, Northern Grampians Shire Council and Pyrenees Shire Council. The Forum's primary responsibility is to provide strategic oversight and identify emerging issues and priorities for the region.
Cr Toohey said a portion of this funding will be allocated to locations that are prone to experiencing natural disasters.
"Unfortunately our region has experienced a number of natural disasters in the last few years including fires in Dereel, Halls Gap and Blackwood and flooding in the Pyrenees region. These events have resulted in the state's first purpose-built fire refuge in Blackwood and demonstrated first-hand the importance of having adequate mobile phone coverage," Cr Toohey said.
"Funding will also be provided to improving mobile phone coverage along major transport routes. We will continue to lobby so that funding will be allocated to the Western Highway the main thoroughfare between Melbourne and Adelaide."
Cr Toohey said the Forum will continue to work with all parties and develop partnerships to ensure adequate mobile phone services are secured.
Liberal candidate for the seat of Mallee, Chris Crewther, said he welcomed Opposition leader Tony Abbott's announcement to fix the mobile phone black spots.
"Phone coverage is a major issue here in the Mallee electorate and, along with most locals, I experience the frustration of black spots every day," Mr Crewther said.
"Whether I am visiting one of our large regional centres, or spending time in a small town, locals are constantly telling me that they want something done about mobile phone reception."
Mr Crewther said importantly, the announcement outlined a plan to focus on the safety of people driving long distances on transport routes, living in isolated areas and those at most risk of experiencing natural disasters like fire and flood.
He said there would also be funding allocated to areas that experience unique mobile phone usage, such as seasonal demand changes.