Left stranded - couple's plea for better mobile coverage

ACCIDENT: Jon Paenga was left unable to contact emergency services due to no phone coverage when his hay truck tipped over in a farming accident. Photo: Supplied
ACCIDENT: Jon Paenga was left unable to contact emergency services due to no phone coverage when his hay truck tipped over in a farming accident. Photo: Supplied

A serious farm accident has brought the lack of mobile phone service at Avenue Range sharply into focus.

Located on a farm just west of Lucindale, Jon Paenga was in his hay truck on Wednesday when it tipped, leaving him lying injured on the ground, unable to reach his radio.

Although he had his mobile phone in his back pocket, Jon was unable to retrieve a signal and couldn't contact emergency services.

Jon's fiancé Lucy Pearce took to social media and created a petition to urge the government and internet providers to up their game when it comes to blackspots.

"He's very lucky but he's still really sore," Lucy told the Herald the day after the accident.

"We should just to be able to know that we can go to work and if that was to happen, he can make an emergency phone call. Not just for us but everyone in the area.

"I don't think we should have to have satellite phones where we are ... we are close to a town, we shouldn't need them.

"There's so many places and I find it so hard to believe that in this day and age we can't do something as simple as make a phone call."

A government initiative Mobile Blackspot Program began in 2015, and earlier this year, areas which will be updated under Round Four of the program were announced.

After this round is complete, Telstra would have invested over $280 million and built over 780 new sites to improve coverage in regional areas.

"I understand they're improving (some) areas and that's great," Lucy said.

"But then they're doing nothing in areas like ours."

Jon and Lucy's property is located only a 20 minute drive from the nearest town, and Lucy said given they're not too far out, they should have the privilege of relying on mobile phones in case of an emergency.

"Another thing I've discovered is that people think you can call the (emergency) 112 or 000 numbers, but you still have to be able to draw off a tower."

Lucy is referring to the common misunderstanding that anyone can contact emergency services regardless if they have mobile service or not, however this is untrue.

The Herald contacted a local police station and enquired whether this was true or not, but was not given a conclusive response.

According to the triplezero.gov.au website, when calling from a mobile phone the caller must have service to reach the primary emergency numbers 000 and 112.

"There is a misconception that 112 calls will be carried by satellite if there is no mobile coverage," the site reads.

"Satellite phones use a different technology and your mobile phone cannot access a satellite network.

"If there is no mobile coverage on any network, you will not be able to reach the Emergency Call Service via a mobile phone, regardless of which number you dialled."

Lucy's petition is aimed at attracting attention from Member for Barker Tony Pasin, who has in previous years voiced his concern on the matter.

"More so (with) the Black Spot Program, I want to see it pushed more. More needs to be done. It's not just for us living here. It's just so dangerous," Lucy said.

Mr Pasin said he will remain a strong advocate for better coverage in regional and rural areas across Barker.

"Round four (of the program) ... will deliver yet more towers, better service to many towns and regions all across the country. But ... this won't go far enough," Mr Pasin said.

"We need this program to proceed past round four. In fact, we need this program to proceed past round five.

"I am actively advocating for this program to become a rolling program. There are so many blackspots around the country that need addressing.

"I'm talking about areas that are populated. I'm advocated for better coverage for people who live in towns and regions, (who) produce our food and fibre ... this program must continue, it must be a rolling program."

To view details about the Black Spot Program, visit investment.infrastructure.gov.au.

Less than 24 hours after the petition was created, 4778 people have signed it. To sign Lucy's petition, visit http://chng.it/sv9Gqx9y.