10 May 2023

The devil is in the detail – still a lengthy wait for Lockhart River

| Matt Nicholls
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Warren Entsch and Cook Shire’s Peter Scott discuss the connectivity funding.

LOCKHART River won’t see a fix to their telecommunications for at least a year, although the wait could be even longer.

Despite last week’s announcement that Telstra would be awarded $3.5 million to improve the mobile phone networks in Lockhart River, Seisia and Cooktown, there is no plan in place to make it happen.

In fact, a Telstra source told Cape York Weekly it found out about the funding from the paper.

Lockhart River mayor Wayne Butcher also found out about the funding from this publication.

He said he wouldn’t be holding his breath for the problem to be fixed.

“There’s a difference between an election promise and an approved project,” he said.

“I won’t be thanking Entschy too early.”

Leichhardt MP Warren Entsch insists the funding is not an election promise and has been budgeted for through the funding program.

However, there was no timeframe in his media release for the works to be completed.

In a statement, Telstra said it was not sure when Lockhart River and the other communities would get their improvements.

“It will be a big job and it won’t happen overnight,” Telstra regional general manager Rachel Cliffe said.

“The first step is finalisation of the contract with the government, then we can begin design planning, community consultations, the formulation and development of planning applications and working with local councils to get the best outcome for everybody.”

The headline of Entsch’s statement was a 5G rollout for the Cape York upgrades but Telstra did not confirm that those communities would be beneficiaries of the faster service.

“All sites being constructed by Telstra under the Regional Connectivity Program will have 5G equipment installed and will be deployed using spectrum bands which are both 4G and 5G certified,” Ms Cliffe said.

“If 5G network access is available, then customers will have access to both 4G and 5G connectivity.”

Cr Butcher said Lockhart River would be happy with a 4G service provided it wasn’t snail-paced and was reliable in all weather conditions.

“We need this to happen fast,” he said.

“We can’t afford another wet season without telecommunications.”

The funding announcement was made in Cooktown last Tuesday and Cook Shire mayor Peter Scott welcomed the funding, which he said would improve liveability.

“We definitely need it here. In the peak of the tourist season the mobile phone network can get very slow,” he said.

“I just hope Telstra come and talk to us before doing anything because we need the coverage in a certain area to optimise it for as many residents as possible.

“When you are a growing town and trying to create employment opportunities a lot of young people will assess the telecommunications before making the move.

“There is hope of getting a university study hub here and there are things like home health which would also benefit from better connectivity.”

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