Dannevirke farmer Kay McKenzie is battling to have a cellphone tower erected on top of Oporae Range to provide much-needed coverage for everyone on the coast east of our district.
"Local Tararua District councillor Jim Crispin is working with me to get a cellphone tower on top of Oporae Range at the northern end of the Puketoi Range. Currently the Inspire tower (internet provider from Palmerston North) is also located on the range which stands at 756 metres," Kay said. "I am seeking support for my petition in order to approach a cellphone provider to install a tower just over our farm's boundary fence."
Kay said the plan is to approach Spark and ask them to assess the site and work on a strategic plan towards a possible cellphone tower.
"Access would be through our property, Glengyle," she said. "As a rural real estate consultant, Jim (Crispin) sold us the 716 hectare Glengyle which we took over on May 18 last year. Jim did a fine job for us and eventually he managed to come out and see what we have been doing on Glengyle since taking over. While I was taking him for a quick four-wheel drive around the farm, he asked if we would consider a cellphone tower on the Oporae Range.
I thought it was a wonderful idea, especially for the safety aspect and emergencies, as we are very isolated. Having no cellphone coverage actually affects us all in so many ways, farmers, contractors, businesses, vets, rural delivery, visitors and tourists to our wonderful coast and the wider Tararua District which has so much to offer.
"I then thought a petition would be the best way to seek support for the tower and it has grown from there."
Mr Crispin told the Dannevirke News there was a real weakness of cell coverage in the area and he believes the tower is essential.
"Putting it on the high point of Oporae Range would mean the coverage would boom out across the district," he said.
The urgent need for a cellphone tower in the area was brought home recently when four young students from Palmerston North were involved in an accident while travelling to the Waihi Falls, Kay said.
"The falls are located just off Oporae Rd," she said. "It was a beautiful summer day, but unfortunately the students miscalculated the sharp and narrow corner and ended upside down in the ditch outside our gate.
"Luckily they were not hurt, but when I walked down the drive to advise them the tow truck from Palmerston North was on its way, I met the police, the Pongaroa Volunteer Fire Brigade, two ambulances and Guy Laver, the Weber Fire Brigade's chief fire officer and our local GP Jane Laver at the gate. "Someone had notified emergency services, but without cellphone coverage it had been too late to turn these services back. Their time and resources were wasted."
Kay said cellphone coverage is vital in today's modern world.
"My husband and me and our three children shifted to Dannevirke from Tolaga Bay, an hour north of Gisborne, because of the great farming opportunities here and because it's so central with great access to schooling in the wider area," she said.
"Although we were living in an isolated area in Gisborne, with the support of both Telecom [now Spark] and Vodafone we had sufficient cellphone coverage.
"Here, the Inspire tower, which provides internet to a good majority of the coast is situated high at 756 meters on Crown land, literally over the boundary fence from Glengyle. The tower could potentially provide cellphone coverage to the majority of the coast."
Kay has approached the council's Tararua Business Network who are providing support and assisting by setting up an online petition as well as posters which are displayed around Dannevirke. Tararua District councillor Keith Fenemore said Pongaroa residents are also looking for better cell coverage, especially in relation to St John ambulance callouts.
Support a cellphone tower at Oporae Range:
* You can sign the petition at Weber School; Vet Services Dannevirke; Farmlands; PGG Wrightsons; Hunting and Fishing Dannevirke; Mitre 10; Herbertville Camping Ground; Pongaroa Hotel; Pongaroa Store; Pongaroa School; Dave's Sports N Outdoors; Caltex Westlow and City Honda Palmerston North.