Support sought for cellphone tower in Tararua District
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Dannevirke farmer Kay McKenzie says, “having no cellphone coverage is frustrating and also dangerous to many in the farming profession – especially with the new Health and Safety Act, that came into effect on 4 April 2016.
Kay is petitioning to get a cellphone tower erected on top of the Oporae Range – which is at the eastern end of the Puketoi Range - in order to provide much-needed coverage for the southern area of the Tararua District and the wider Central Hawke’s Bay.
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“The rural Weber area [situated to the east of Dannevirke] is often forgotten country - but it is a farming community and communities such as this are the backbone of New Zealand”, explains Kay.
In August last year, Kay's husband Pete was injured after a quad bike flipped on top of him. He had been checking stock on the farm during lambing season.
"It was a steep track and it was greasy after the rain. Pretty much, he couldn't get up at first and rolled the bike back and the wheel got caught in a rut and became unbalanced. The bike completely somersaulted right over top of him. It split his helmet and his chin was split - he ended up with 28 stitches in his lips."
“Luckily for Pete, he was able to walk to the house on the property and use a landline to call for help.”
Another recent incident involved four Palmerston North teenagers flipping their car outside Kay's driveway on Oporae Road. Kay says, “the teenagers were unharmed but emergency services, including police, ambulance, the volunteer fire service, and a Weber doctor, attended the scene.”
“It ended up wasting resources - if I had reception at the time, I could have told them what the situation was. Having cellphone coverage is a safety net for farming families and it is urgently needed to respond correctly during an emergency situation.”
"If people had cellphone coverage, first of all they are safer, they can communicate, they can grow business – there are just so many opportunities - to me safety is huge, and general communication for farmers, businesses, contractors, tourists and schools is essential."
Locals have described Weber as a "dead spot" for cellphone coverage. One local noted "there's no coverage there at all, you have to drive out of it to get coverage – some of the locals who live on the coast find themselves driving nearly and hour before they can get any sort of coverage."
Central District Police Search and Rescue (SAR) Coordinator, Sergeant Bill Nicholson, said SAR would support any initiative that would improve coverage in the area. He said the topography of the area had meant signals likely varied. While there had been no recent reported land and rescue operations in the area, Nicholson said that improving communication channels would benefit chances of future rescues.
Kay feels that there is strong community support for the petition. She hopes to gain as much support as possible before approaching Spark to see whether a cellphone tower could be installed on the Oporae Range.
Spark spokesperson, Sam Durbin, said Spark were open and willing for conversations with Kay and the community about the petition. However, the hilly landscape and sparse population meant installing a cellphone tower could be challenging.
The installation cost and ongoing costs of a cellphone tower varied, but could cost up to $500,000, he said. "There are a lot of challenges, but there are options too and obviously we would be willing to have conversations about this."
If you support this cause, and would like to see a cellphone tower installed at the top of Oporae Range in Weber in order to provide the much-needed cell coverage for the southern area of the Tararua District and the wider Central Hawke’s Bay, please sign the petition online or at any of the following locations:
Weber School; Vet Services Dannevirke; Farmlands; PGG Wrightsons; Hunting and Fishing Dannevirke; Mitre 10; Herbertville Camping Ground; Pongaroa Hotel; Pongaroa Store; Pongaroa School; Dave's Sports N Outdoors; Caltex Westlow; Vet Services Waipukurau; Vet Services Hawke’s Bay and City Honda Palmerston North.
Kay would like to thank you for supporting this vital cause.
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