Dereel appeals for answers on phone tower

Mt Mercer/Dereel Fire. Picture: Luka Kauzlaric
Mt Mercer/Dereel Fire. Picture: Luka Kauzlaric

FOLLOWING yet another fire, Dereel residents are demanding to know when a phone tower planned for the area will be built. 

Despite a commitment being made last year that a phone tower would be constructed, confusion still exists in the community in regards to a timeframe. 

On Saturday a medium sized bushfire burned out of control for much of the afternoon with the wind pushing the blaze towards Mount Mercer and away from Dereel. The fire burned through more than 150 hectares.

Despite residents being well prepared, many were frustrated by the lack of ability to receive alerts via their phones or contact others in the area. Local Kim Stanley said many were still frustrated by the difficulty in getting information. “My FireReady app worked, not everyone’s did,” she said.  “It seemed to be overloaded and very difficult to get information.

“Those of us who had access used Facebook to put it out for everyone to see. We worked as a community and that worked really well.

“I am very fortunate, in some of my property, I have some phone access, but it was very hit and miss. My neighbours across the road, they don’t get it (phone reception) at all. It is very sad that in this day and age a community who are working so hard on growing, still doesn’t have basic services.” 

Corangamite MP Sarah Henderson said she had previously called on Telstra to prioritise areas of high fire danger when building the towers. “I am frankly furious about it, it is not just in Dereel, it is  other areas of high fire danger  as well.” 

Telstra Area general manager Bill Mundy said there was a three year roll out plan involving 429 separate sites across Australia. 

“We expect to be able to provide more detail about the schedule in the near future once contracts are finalised with all contributing governments,” he said. 

“A number of factors contribute to the rollout schedule, such as time required to obtain relevant planning approvals, the scale and complexity of work required for a specific site and the presence or absence of existing infrastructure that can be utilised at that site. The rollout schedule also reflects the timing of funding availability over the life of the Programme.”

Rokewood resident Tracey Taylor planned to move to Dereel but has decided against it until the phone problems are addressed. 

“People are still asking when it is going to happen, we don’t have an answer as to when,” she said. “It just astounds me in this day and age. I first saw it on Facebook. I have the FireReady app which I could see. As soon as I got a bar of service, then I got the warning message.

CFA operations officer Gavin Hope said the dry conditions meant fires could easily start in the area, even with lower temperatures. 

“It took all day to stop its (the fire’s) run, it was mostly in bushland and it was burning very well, once it came into grassland we were able to get on top of it,” he said. 

Mr Hope said it was important residents remained resilient and avoided doing work that could start a fire in dry and dangerous areas.