For over 20 years, the Cottage Point community in Mackellar have pleaded for reliable mobile phone coverage and internet access, yet they are still waiting. This is despite the death of resident David Berry in 2019, after his wife was unable to call an ambulance because their landline was down and there was no mobile signal. With the awarding of federal funding in March 2020 for the installation of a mobile phone base station, through the Mobile Black Spot Program, the community was relieved that a solution was imminent; however, over three years later, this is yet to be installed.
Poor mobile phone reception poses a great risk to residents and the many visitors to the area every year. Cottage Point is one of Sydney's most at-risk communities when it comes to bushfires, with a single narrow road in and out of the community through the Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park. The ability of Cottage Point Rural Fire Brigade and Cottage Point Marine Rescue to provide help during emergencies is impacted due to the lack of mobile coverage. Cottage Point Kiosk & Boat Hire is impacted daily due to dropouts, unable to pay bills or accept payments from customers.
While I understand installing a mobile phone base station requires much work with various stakeholders, there has been no accountability on Optus regarding the millions of dollars of taxpayer money being utilised, or a project timeline. No firm deadlines have ever been established, and the community is constantly told that work will soon begin, yet this never eventuates. It is unbelievable that in 2023 Cottage Point residents rely on an antiquated 1970s Telstra exchange that doesn't work during storms and only provides a limited number of fixed landlines with unreliable ADSL or dial-up internet. Only last month there was a major fault in transmission, and all phone contact out of Cottage Point was lost for an entire weekend, including the ability to call 000.
It's no wonder the Cottage Point community are completely fed up and frustrated. All stakeholders involved, including Optus, Telstra, Ausgrid, NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service and local councils, have a duty of care to ensure this mobile base station is installed urgently—in particular, prior to the upcoming bushfire season. I thank the Minister for Communications and her team for taking on the oversight of this project. Without effective mobile coverage, lives are at risk, and the Cottage Point community can wait no longer.