Council calls on NSW to improve Mt Wandera telecommunications
The Eurobodalla Council is calling upon the NSW Government to take urgent actions on improving the resilience of its telecommunications infrastructure in Mount Wandera to prevent the loss of communications Eurobodalla experienced in the 2019-20 bushfires.
Eurobodalla’s main telecommunications infrastructure sits on top of Mount Wandera, west of Moruya. The infrastructure supports the entire area by transmitting police, ambulance and fire radio communications, as well as ABC and commercial radio and television, mobile phone services, and more.
During the Black Summer Bushfires, the extensive damage done to the infrastructure resulted in the loss of emergency services radio networks, ABC radio broadcasting, and other telecommunications. The loss of communications significantly contributed to the Eurobodalla community’s fear during the event. The damages also placed the bushfire’s first responders at a much higher risk.
Although the shire’s main telecommunications infrastructure has been repaired, it remains vulnerable to potential bushfires. The site’s burnt power poles were replaced with timber and the tower is surrounded by prolific regrowth and dead, dying and fallen trees.
Because of this, Eurobodalla Council’s Infrastructure Services Director Warren Sharpe OAM, with the support of Eurobodalla’s Local Emergency Management Committee and Far South Coast Bushfire Management Committee, is calling for urgent funding from the NSW Government to replace the timber power poles with more resilient composite poles, to initiate immediate maintenance around the tower and to establish and maintain in perpetuity a larger asset protection zone.
Director Sharpe said the improvements were relatively low cost compared to the benefits for the whole community.
“Mount Wandera is home to the most critical telecommunications in the whole Eurobodalla region, yet the resilience of the power supply and the care of the site is poor,” Director Sharpe said.
“We’re asking the NSW Government to act immediately and allocate funds to address these deficiencies as a matter of urgency. The vegetation and tree work should be undertaken now in the winter period and can be readily achieved by contractors already in the local area.”
The loss of telecommunications during the Black Summer Bushfires was one of the top issues raised by the Eurobodalla community during and post fires as it caused major stress in the community and significantly impacted response efforts.
The loss of telecommunications during the bushfire forced the Eurobodalla Shire Council to send volunteer escorts, visiting technical specialists repair crews and their own staff into the fire zones to help with the response.
“We must take the lessons learnt and act now to achieve a far more resilient future. Whilst backup battery power supply is being increased, when you look at how easy it is to make the main power supply more resilient, Governments should move now to make this and cleaning up the site an urgent priority,” Director Sharpe said.
“Knowing action is being taken to build a more resilient telecommunications infrastructure network is fundamentally important for the wellbeing and recovery of our still traumatised community.”
SOURCE: EUROBODALLA SHIRE COUNCIL NEWS RELEASE