Mobile black spots around Benalla will hopefully become a thing of the past following the announcement of an $11 million state government investment designed to address the issue.
Federal Member for Indi Cathy McGowan has given her full support to the funding, which will be used to build new mobile phone towers across regional Victoria.
‘‘The commitment by the Victorian Government to partner with the telecommunications industry to build the towers is welcome,’’ Ms McGowan said.
‘‘Mobile black spots remain a key issue for regional Victoria and I support any commitment that addresses this.’’
The state government has been addressing this issue in stages with several black spots already removed in recent years.
Base station upgrades in Myrrhee and Tatong have been completed in the past 12 months and upgrades at Moyhu, Upper Ryans Creek and Molyullah are expected to be completed by next year.
Once those are complete there will still be 17 black spots in areas surrounding Benalla, and people living and working in these areas will be hopeful they are next to receive an upgrade.
However, at this stage there has been no announcement as to how and where the newly approved $11 million will be spent.
Ms McGowan said she was keen for the Indi Telecommunications Action Group (ITAG) to share its work with the Victorian Government and Regional Development Victoria to prioritise remaining black spot sites in Indi.
‘‘North East Victoria is ready to progress this work,’’ she said.
‘‘We know the Federal Government has not committed to round four of the Commonwealth Mobile Black Spot Program.
‘‘Funding has been secured for 38 mobile phone towers in Indi, but further money must be made available to address all outstanding sites.
‘‘Rounds one and two of the Commonwealth Mobile Black Spot Program worked well in Indi as a partnership between the community, local, state and federal governments, with an emphasis on safety.
‘‘But there is still more to do. As federal member, I will continue to push the Commonwealth to fund round four of this program.’’
Ms McGowan said evidence of the success of the previous rounds of the federal program was ongoing, with five new mobile phone towers to be officially opened in January in partnership with Telstra at Leneva, Eldorado, Tolmie, Archerton and Ancona.
‘‘Together with ITAG, I will be working with local governments in Indi to submit priority sites in the North East to the Victorian program,’’ Ms McGowan said.
‘‘I look forward to working with the Victorian Government and confirming a process that avoids unnecessary duplication and emphasises a strong partnership between all levels of government and the community.’’