16 November 2022

Campaign results in budget giving $750,000 to fireproof Eurobodalla telecommunication tower

| Albert McKnight
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Telecommunications tower

A community campaign had called on government to protect telecommunications infrastructure atop Mount Wandera. Photo: Eurobodalla Council.

The recent Federal Budget has delivered a massive win for the Eurobodalla, with $750,000 being allocated to fireproof the Mount Wandera telecommunications tower.

The news, announced by Eurobodalla Shire Mayor Mathew Hatcher, is the result of a community campaign to try to prevent the loss of radio and phone reception, like what occurred in the Black Summer bushfires, from happening again.

“I don’t think any of us who went through the fires with limited or sometimes no communications ever want a repeat of that situation,” Mayor Hatcher said.

“This funding is so welcome.

“We have fought hard for it, bending the ear of every politician and bureaucrat we could about how vital this work is for our community’s recovery and future resilience.”

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Mount Wandera, which is near Moruya, hosts the main telecommunications infrastructure for the whole Eurobodalla and transmits radio for police, ambulance, fire services, ABC radio and commercial stations, as well as television and mobile phone services.

The facility was severely damaged during the Black Summer bushfires, resulting in the loss of emergency services’ radio networks, ABC radio broadcasting, and other telecommunications, including those from the council.

In August 2021, the council pleaded with the NSW Government to take urgent action to prevent a repeat of the loss of communications.

Then in the lead-up to the 2022 federal election, both the council and the Batemans Bay Chamber of Commerce launched another push to improve the shire’s telecommunications infrastructure.

At the time, the council’s infrastructure services director Warren Sharpe OAM said the loss of communications in the Black Summer bushfires placed first responders at increased risk and added to the broader community’s trauma.

Mayor Hatcher said the $750,000 for Mount Wandera was not the only funding allocated from the recent budget to help the shire cope with disasters.

For instance, $221,000 will flow to South Durras so its NBN cable can be put safely underground and its timber power poles replaced with composite ones.

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The NBN community hub in Batemans Bay will receive a new satellite connection, meaning free internet access will remain available for the community even if ordinary communications go down. This will also benefit NSW Rural Fire Service units in Batemans Bay, Moruya and Mogo, along with the Moruya State Emergency Service.

Also, $5 million will go to the emergency services precinct in Moruya, supplementing $15m from the NSW Government.

“It’s true the wheels of government can turn slowly, and occasionally fall off along the way,” Mayor Hatcher said.

“But sometimes all the representation, the hard work, the advocacy pays off and these moments of success are what keep us all going.”

The council said the $750,000 funding allocation came from the Disaster Ready Fund and was for power supply, access as well as asset protection zone improvements at Mount Wandera.

The funds will allow all remaining resilience and site safety works to proceed to completion in 2023.

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