Mark Coulton

The NSW Nationals in the federal government have welcomed the $8.3 million investment to boost the resilience of communications networks in bushfire-prone areas of regional Australia.

The funding, part of the $37.1 million Strengthening Telecommunications Against Natural Disasters (STAND), will enable telcos to purchase temporary, portable facilities that will be rapidly deployed to communities and evacuation centres. During the 2019–20 bushfires, similar facilities provided critical connectivity during network outages.

NSW Nationals Regional Communications Minister Mark Coulton said there were four parts in the emergency telecommunications package that was announced following the bushfires earlier this year.

“In addition to this week’s announcement, the STAND package also funds NBN Co to purchase five newly designed NBN Road Muster trucks and 12 portable satellite kits; provides $18 million for battery or generator backup for phone towers and $7 million to improve communications at fire sheds and evacuation centres,” Mr Coulton said.

“In addition, the government will shortly call for applications under Round 5A of the Mobile Black Spot Program. This round will focus on delivering improved mobile coverage in disaster-prone areas.

“The Mobile Black Spot Program has funded more than 1200 new mobile base stations to date, with 881 of these now on-air and providing improved coverage and additional safety for regional communities across Australia.”

Deputy Nationals leader and Minister for Emergency Management David Littleproud said the grants, for temporary portable mobile communications facilities, complement a range of other bushfire recovery programs we have delivered since the devastating Black Summer Bushfires.

“The Commonwealth is investing more than $2 billion to help bushfire impacted communities to recover and to build back better. We have worked in partnership with states to help in the immediate response, relief, clean-up and recovery effort,” Mr Littleproud said.