‘Constant duck shoving’ on tower

Saskia AdystiAlbany Advertiser
Albany sea rescue operations co-ordinator, Chris Johns.
Camera IconAlbany sea rescue operations co-ordinator, Chris Johns. Credit: Albany Advertiser, Laurie Benson Albany Advertiser.

Albany Sea Rescue co-ordinator Chris Johns says his organisation does not want to be used as a political tool after becoming frustrated with a lack of action on building a new mobile tower near The Gap.

After funding promises from the Federal Government in April, the Advertiser understands construction of the new macrocell tower is unlikely to start this year.

Mr Johns, who was invited to attend the press conference for the funding announcement, said he was under the impression work would start this year.

“It’s frustrating because you have all these meetings with all the media down here when the funding’s first announced,” he said. “We were invited to do a press conference about it, but now it seems that it’s going nowhere again.”

In April, Federal Member for O’Connor Rick Wilson announced $300,000 funding for a macrocell tower to be built at Cave Point Lighthouse near The Gap under the Mobile Black Spot Program.

The tower would provide coverage along Torndirrup National Park, including around dangerous fishing spot Salmon Holes, where there have been 13 deaths in the past four decades. Mr Johns said the timing of the funding announcement strangely coincided with the Federal Election.

“We don’t want to be a political device for anybody,” he said. “We’re a volunteer rescue organisation and we thought finally something is happening to fix the issue here.”

Mr Wilson said work on the tower would start after rounds one and two of the Mobile Black Spot Program were completed.

“Because this new site will be funded by the underspend of rounds one and two of the program, round two needs to be complete so that the underspend can be realised, distributed and spent on projects like Cave Point,” he said.

The Salmon Holes mobile black spot issue was first identified under round one of the MBSP four years ago. But the initial site proposed by the Federal Government was rejected by the State Government partly due to its visual impact.

“We just feel that there is a constant duckshoving and everyone’s got an excuse ... the problem is right now there is really patchy mobile reception along Torndirrup National Park,” Mr Johns said.

“And then when you see someone falling at The Gap or Salmon Holes, people will have trouble contacting triple zero — and that is valuable time there that could mean the difference between life and death.”

Telstra regional general manager Boyd Brown said he acknowledged the need for a new tower to be delivered under the MBSP to provide coverage near The Gap.

“The MBSP program does have strict processes and requirements in place set and managed by the Federal Government in terms of site selection and funding,” he said.

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