Better cellphone coverage for West Otago confirmed

Hamish Walker
Hamish Walker
West Otago will soon have improved cellphone coverage, after long-standing mobile black spots in the area were confirmed for improvements.

During its meeting yesterday, West Otago Community Board heard from Crown Infrastructure Partners general manager for government and industry affairs Nick Manning about the organisation's latest plans for the area.

Crown is managing the rollout of the Government's nationwide Rural Broadband Initiative (phase two) (RBI2) and Mobile Black Spots Fund (MBSF).

Within the total $150 million of projects, an additional 11km of State Highways 8 and 90 would receive improved coverage, Mr Manning said.

The areas were centred on Raes Junction, and further stretches of SH90 towards Tapanui and SH8 abutting the Clutha Gold cycle trail would also be covered.

These had been identified after consultation with mobile telecommunications providers and the NZ Transport Agency, and targeted locations where network gaps and accident black spots overlapped, Mr Manning said.

Because the scheduled projects would not ''cover everything and solve all issues'', Crown welcomed continued input from communities identifying further areas of concern in their districts, he said.

An additional, recently-secured $105 million of future project funding could be used for areas identified in this way.

Clutha Southland MP Hamish Walker, who arranged the meeting between Crown and the community board, said there was concern significant black spots would remain in West and South Otago after the work.

It was agreed board members and emergency service representatives present at the meeting would inform Crown about these by letter.

Senior Constable John Mawhinney, of Tapanui, said he welcomed the planned extensions, which would cover historically problematic areas, particularly on SH90.

However, he queried whether cellphone users would need to change mobile provider once the new coverage was in place.

Mr Manning confirmed all major telcos would provide coverage for the new areas.

Mr Walker said he was pleased Crown had listened to his and the West Otago community's calls for improved cellphone coverage.

''The community was rightly concerned about mobile black spots locally. I've been working with Crown since the end of last year to get cellphone coverage sorted between Raes Junction and Tapanui. It's great to hear this will be rolled out next year.''

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