10 May 2023

Lockhart River suffers from Telstra's negligence

| Matt Nicholls
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Landline phones, internet and mobile services were restored in Lockhart River around 2pm on Thursday “following the delivery of parts and technicians by helicopter as a priority”, according to Telstra.

“The outage that impacted residents of Lockhart River was caused by intermittent power and transmission failures at a solar power site in Batavia Downs which affected mobile services in the area, including fixed-line phone and internet for businesses and residential customers,” a spokesman said.

“When communities are isolated and have no access to 000 emergency services, we treat them with the highest priority.”

It’s not the first time Lockhart River has been cut off and won’t be the last, Wayne Butcher said.

The mayor claimed his town was being put in danger in the event of an emergency.

“It’s not safe, if there was a cyclone coming we wouldn’t be able to keep up to date with information and we wouldn’t be able to warn people properly,” he said last week.

“If anyone is stranded or broken down somewhere, we can’t help them.

“Even our petrol bowsers depend on the internet, so there’s no unleaded fuel at the moment, although the council has some diesel capacity.

“All in all, it’s impossible to do any work or run a business here, as it would be anywhere, without communications.

“And we are cut off from all road transport – in short, it’s bloody hard to run a business in remote Cape York and Telstra is being less than helpful.”

Cr Butcher said the community had a long history of communication issues, mostly in the wet season, when they needed these services the most.

“In 2018 we struggled to maintain contact with the outside world for six weeks after a lightning strike took out our phone tower,” he said.

“This is a situation that has been getting worse by the year, we need far better communication into our region.

“There are more than 800 residents in and around our town, without any reasonable phone coverage which is unsafe, particularly at this time of year in the wet season.

“Telstra needs to improve in a big way, we can’t continue with these ongoing failures.”

The Telstra spokesman said the company had organised a temporary mobile cell to be sent to Lockhart River in the event that another failure occurs at Batavia Downs.

“We thank the residents, mayor and council of Lockhart River for their patience during this time, and when weather interrupts vital services in remote communities like theirs,” he said.

“We have heard their frustration and will be in direct consultation to ensure they can have confidence in telecommunications to the region in the future, and above all, feel safe and connected.”

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