Community Benefit Program delivers better mobile coverage for Hawker residents

A $425,000 grant from the Community Benefit Program has co-funded upgrades to infrastructure in Wonoka Hill to improve mobile phone coverage.
A $425,000 grant from the Community Benefit Program has co-funded upgrades to infrastructure in Wonoka Hill to improve mobile phone coverage.

Mobile reception has been improved for rural residents living in and around Wonoka Hill, near one of the proposed sites for the federal government's nuclear waste management facility.

The $425,000 4G reception upgrade was made possible by the federal government's Community Benefit Program, an initiative that funds projects in communities close sites under consideration for the National Radioactive Waste Management Facility (NRWMF).

Wonoka Hill is located 50 kilometres from the Wallerberdina Station site, just outside of Hawker.

General Manager of the NRWMF Taskforce Sam Chard said the grants program was a way to give back to the communities for their active engagement throughout the consultation process.

"The Community Benefit Program allocates funding to ideas and projects that community members come up with themselves, and nobody knows the area better than a local," Ms Chard said.

"We are pleased to be delivering real benefits thanks to the guidance of the local community, and as a result we have been able to support worthy projects like this new mobile phone infrastructure.

Hawker farmer John Rowe thought of the idea to improve poor mobile service.

"There is good 3G service in the town, but it was very poor outside of the town, and we didn't have eligibility for blackspot funding," he said.

"I have grandchildren on School of the Air and you can see where the technology's going; that was the reason I've pushed for it."

The grant funded half of the project costs, with the remaining balance contributed by Telstra.

Since 2016, $5.76 million has been put into 57 projects as communities were consulted on the siting of the facility.

A community ballot in Kimba returned two months ago with a clear majority of residents in support of a nuclear waste dump being built in their region (61.58 per cent).

The three year consultation will come to a close on December 12 with the completion of a similar community vote in Hawker.

If one or both of the communities vote yes, the federal Minister for Resources Matt Canavan could name the final site by the end of the year.