Article courtesy of The Armidale Expres
Issues with a new phone tower on a property west of Armidale owned by Gina Rinehart‘s pastoral arm,was news to mining magnate’s agricultural company.
The tower is located on the property near Kingstown, bought by Ms Rinehart’s pastoral arm Hancock Prospecting in August last year.
While residents have struggled with reception problems since the tower was switched on a fortnight ago Hancock CEO, David Larkin, said the first he had heard of it was in an article published online by the Armidale Express last week.
“The location of the tower is not of significance to us and if our property is chosen by Telstra as the best location we are happy for it to be placed on our property to assist reception,” Mr Larkin said.
“We expect all Telstra infrastructure to progress reception and we are unreserved in that expectation in use of infrastructure.
“If there are other suitable locations we would expect Telstra to be putting towers in the best location.”
Landowners are paid an annual fee from telecommunications companies to have towers placed on their property but Mr Larkin said the company was not motivated by rental of the tower.
The contract with Telstra in this case was signed by the previous owner of Sundown Pastoral Company, David Statham, Mr Larkin said.
“This tower and others was pre [before] us purchasing the property in the last quarter last year, as it and I believe another were contracted,” he said. “We honoured the contract.
“We stand in support of the local community and all regional communities in getting coverage across this country.”
Residents in Kingstown fought to have the tower co-located with an existing police and emergency services tower on a hill.
Wendy Jssep has owned the corner shop in Kingstown for more than a decade and she said there’s only half a dozen places close to the tower that get reception.
“Only about 8km up the road there’s no reception,” she said. “It’s affected a couple of houses and now people can’t get TV reception.”
Telstra’s regional general manager Mike Marom said the tower provides 3G and 4G Telstra mobile coverage to Kingstown and surrounding areas.
“Mobile coverage can be impacted by a variety of factors including terrain, trees, building and the type of handsets used,” he said.
New England MP Barnaby Joyce announced the tower as part of the federal government’s Mobile Black Spot program in June 2015.
A spokesman for Mr Joyce said the exact location of the tower was in this case chosen by Telstra.
Meanwhile, Telstra would not confirm the amount paid to Hancock Prospecting as the arrangement is commercial in confidence.