Qld Indigenous town's phones down again

·2-min read

Lockhart River Mayor Wayne Butcher has labelled telecommunications in his region "ridiculous and unacceptable" after phone lines failed for the fourth time in two years.

The regional township of Lockhart River, 800 kilometres north of Cairns, is now back online but had been without telecommunications since the weekend for the second time this month.

In 2018, the town went without contact with the outside world for six weeks after lightning struck a phone tower.

Then in 2021, it lost phone and internet services for four days due to a solar power incident in February before going dark once again two months' later due to intermittent power failures.

Councillor Butcher said with the threat of cyclones and weather systems in the region, he is tired of a system that fails all too regularly.

"We can't run our day-to-day business, we can't run the shire, we can't call for an ambulance," he said in a statement.

"This has been going on every year for the past 10 years I've been the mayor, we've seen promise after promise to fix the problem but no commitment to getting the job done.

"It's ridiculous and unacceptable."

Four vehicles from the local Lockhart River community are stranded on the Pascoe River while five tourists are marooned on the Wenlock River, flooded in by heavy rainfall that has saturated north Queensland since the weekend.

Food and medical supplies have been dropped off by the council-commissioned helicopter, with some travellers having been stranded in the region for 12 days.

Last year, a couple and their child were airlifted to safety from 30km south of Lockhart River after heavy rain hit the region.

Cr Butcher said Telstra and the federal government has been notified of constant telecommunication issues and that one day the disruptions may cost someone's life.

"Telstra knows about it, the federal government knows about it, and we just keep knocking on their door, reminding them we're having the same recurrence of events here, every year," the mayor said.

"It is going to cost someone their life, or lives, one day and it's honestly a wonder it hasn't happened already. It feels like it's only a matter of time.

"It's a technical issue, it's fixable and it needs to be fixed."

In a statement, Telstra said services had been restored on Wednesday but recent torrential rain affected power supply to their site at Lockhart River, bringing down mobile and land services to the region.

"The weather has also cut off roads and our technician choppered to and from the site to conduct repairs," Telstra Regional General Manager Rachel Cliffe said.

"We are also seeking to improve services and network resiliency in Lockhart River as part of the second round of the Regional Connectivity Program and we are awaiting the outcome of this application."

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