Telecommunications-plagued farmers in the Gingin and Breera area hope a nearly $900,000 investment will improve internet speeds and extend coverage along parts of the Brand and Great Northern Highways.
Federal Regional Communications Minister Bridget McKenzie visited Gingin this week to unveil the $891,350 funding boon as part of the second funding round of the $257 million Regional Connectivity program.
The cash-splash will be used to upgrade one Telstra macro cell base in Gingin and deploy a new Telstra macro cell base to Breera, just south of Gingin along the Brand Highway.
The infrastructure is pegged to improve connectivity to the region and extend coverage to the Brand and Great Northern Highways, improving safety for motorists.
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Gingin farmer David Roe, whose property is at Beermullah, said the announcement was “excellent” on a number of fronts, for both emergency services and farmers in the area.
“We are a big country and can’t expect every kilometre of road to be covered, but this is excellent on a number of fronts — for emergency services, accidents and for farmers,” he said.
“We are so dependent on our phones and on farm management software.
“You really need two bars of 4G to upload data as you travel around the farm. We can’t use innovation if we can’t get phone signal.”
He also serves as the fire captain at the Beermullah Bushfire Brigade and said telecommunications was “critical” for the safety of those fighting fires.
“Sometimes a fire gets going and you are trying to contact someone, and there is no mobile reception,” he said. “Having mobile coverage is really critical”.
More than 130 projects in regional communities across Australia were upgraded through the first round of the Regional Connectivity program, including more than 20 in WA.
Ms McKenzie said residents, businesses and visitors to Gingin and Breera would benefit from the investment.
“Digital connectivity is an essential part of how we work, learn, stay safe and remain in contact with loved ones,” she said.
“The Liberals and Nationals will continue to invest in this critical infrastructure as part of our plan for a strong economy and stronger future.
“By contrast, Labor has not funded a single mobile tower in regional Australia, in fact they have recently announced an Albanese led government will cut $155 million from the budget for regional communications.”
WA Nationals Durack candidate Ian Blayney — who will face off against Durack Liberals MP Melissa Price at the upcoming Federal Election — said the funding provided would help local communities to stay connected.
“Locals will have improved access to essential services as well as better connectivity for communities and motorists on Highways,” Mr Blayney said.
Busselton and Harvey farmers also hope to benefit from a $1.6 million investment to deploy 10 new fixed wireless sites and the upgrading of two existing sites to improve broadband services, also announced this week.
And Mullewa farmers will also benefit from a $4 million spend to upgrade NBN technology in town, from the existing NBN Sky Muster Satellite to the NBN Fibre to the Premises.
Forrest MP Nola Marino said the funding would bolster fibre broadband and fixed wireless connectivity, to give locals better access to essential services including telehealth and education.
Ms McKenzie spent three days in WA, visiting Gingin, Bunbury and Perth.
While in the South West, she also held a roundtable with civic and business leaders in Bunbury to discuss the Federal Government’s Regional Accelerator program, which aims to turbocharge investment in the regions.