Poor mobile reception, internet outages hamper flood recovery in northern New South Wales

Prolonged phone and internet outages are causing “enormous anxiety and stress” in flood-affected communities in northern New South Wales, residents say.

Alstonville resident Jessica Harbisher feared for her father’s safety after she was unable to contact him more than 24 hours after floodwaters inundated his home in West Ballina.

As essential supplies dwindle across the region, she’s worried about other friends and family she cannot reach.

Jessica Harbisher takes a selfie.
Jessica Harbisher feared for her father’s safety after being unable to contact him.Supplied: Jessica Harbisher

In the township of Kyogle, waste disposal business owner Jeff Davis is unable to assist with the clean up because he cannot respond to texts or take calls.

“I think I would be required at present but [I’ve] got no coverage at all. You can’t do anything,” Mr Davis said.

Kyogle Council’s general manager Graham Kennett says the telecommunication network is enabling connectivity for emergency services, but not for local recovery.

“It causes an enormous amount of anxiety and stress.”

Jeff Davis looks up from his sandwich and drink.
Skip bin operator Jeff Davis says he can’t contact flood-affected residents in Kyogle because mobile reception is down.ABC North Coast: Miranda Saunders

Mr Kennett said the council has struggled to connect with isolated residents due to limited phone and internet coverage.

“It’s particularly challenging to say the least.”

What’s being done?

Mr Kennett criticized Telstra for not acting fast enough to restore reception after power was restored earlier this week by Essential Energy.

Graham Kennett at his desk.
Graham Kennett says poor telecommunications are hampering flood recovery and response.ABC North Coast: Miranda Saunders

Telstra’s northern NSW regional manager Mark Marom said Kyogle and Lennox Head were among 18 areas throughout the North Coast with no NBN or mobile reception.


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