Mobile calls fall on deaf ears

It’s one of Gippsland’s premier tourist destinations attracting an estimated 120,000 visitors each year.

It has a post office, several hotels and cafes, a railway station, shops and houses.

And although it came late to the party in 1998, it even has electricity.

But in an era of expected instant communication, the tiny mountain town of Walhalla, population 16, is still without mobile phone coverage.

After missing out on funding in round one of the Federal Government’s Mobile Black Spot Program, the town’s proponents are continuing to fight for money in round two.

Walhalla Heritage and Development League president Harvey Hutchison said most visitors were surprised there was no mobile coverage in the town.

“We promote ourselves as being one of the biggest tourist areas in Gippsland but when you get here and there’s no communication, people are surprised that we don’t have it,” Mr Hutchison said.

Apart from safety concerns over not having access to internet or mobile phone signal during emergencies, Mr Hutchison said many visitors had experienced inconveniences while trying to transfer funds to their bank accounts to pay for services in the town.

Safety concerns were raised during an incident in which a camper experienced several seizures in late December.

After the family tried to phone triple zero with no luck, some other campers ran to Star Hotel in search of a landline.

According to Star Hotel owner Michael Leaney, the triple zero operator asked for more details about the camper but this was impossible given the patient was 1.5 kilometres from the landline.

While an ambulance eventually reached the camper and took them to hospital, the lack of mobile coverage cost valuable time and the situation could have been worse – had it happened at night, there would have been no landline option available.

Mr Leaney said it was an all too common situation at Walhalla, which on long weekends could boast up to 2000 visitors per day.

“When you have an event like that it just highlights what a pain it is that they (mobile phones) don’t work here,” he said.

So far the town’s calls for phone coverage have largely fallen on deaf ears, despite heavy campaigning.

The town has now turned to social media with a plea on Facebook for its masses of visitors to nominate it for Mobile Black Spot Program funding.

While he expects support from visitors, Mr Leaney admitted the town’s population, unusual topography and lack of a major highway could continue to leave it without coverage.

“Sadly, and it’s horrible to say this, but the only thing that will change this really quickly will be a death,” he said.

“I just fear that will be the only thing that will trigger it (phone tower funding).”

Nominations for round two of mobile black spot funding close tomorrow.

Members of the community can nominate mobile black spots for inclusion on a government database, which will be used to identify black spot locations.

To nominate any location for black spot funding visit