Cromwell vehicle salvage operator Ross Hansen has been asking for better mobile phone coverage on Central Otago roads for 20 years and says the present situation could lead to deaths.
Lack of coverage made the job dangerous for his staff, who recovered vehicles on isolated roads, at night and in terrible weather, he said.
Winter breakdowns in the Lindis Pass could result in a stranded motorist dying in freezing temperatures.”
It could also prevent quick access to emergency services.
“If someone has a heart attack, it’s all over. If someone is injured and bleeding, it’s going to take a long time to get to them,” he said.
“The Kawarau Gorge, Cromwell Gorge, Lindis and Nevis are all dead spots [for cell coverage].”
“It [vehicle recovery] is more dangerous now. Cars come quite close when [people are] salvaging cars at night, in the rain and in the snow. I need to send two guys in case something happens and we can’t ring for help. It’s us at the grassroots putting our lives on the line.
“We need to do something, not talk about it.”
Mr Hansen said the poor condition of Central Otago roads made driving hazardous, particularly with the high volume of traffic which meant the need for mobile coverage was even more urgent.
“Road conditions in Central Otago are diabolical,” he said.
Work is being planned through the Government’s Mobile Black Spot Fund to improve highway mobile coverage in Central Otago, with a request going out for companies to tender for the work.
Work is being planned on improving coverage in the Kawarau Gorge, Cromwell Gorge, Lindis, Nevis and Raes Junction. There is no work planned for State Highway 8 between Alexandra and Roxburgh.
Crown Fibre Holdings stakeholder relations manager Tanya Hansen said areas identified for improvement were based on information on traffic volumes, maximum drive time to coverage and visitor numbers.
Central Otago District Council economic development manager Warwick Hawker said he was pleased improved mobile coverage was being planned. He described the process as “slow” but added that that “is not a criticism”.
It was also important coverage was improved on Central Otago cycle trails, as a lack of coverage in places was an issue if users had accidents, he said.