Bush telecommunications needs help with more reforms

The Australian, 3 September 2015.

Vodafone Australia chief Inaki Berroeta.

Vodafone Australia chief Inaki Berroeta.

Recently I drove to Armidale in country NSW to open a new ­Vodafone retail store with the local federal MP and Agriculture Minister, Barnaby Joyce. During the drive I had cause to reflect on the potential for improved mobile telecommunications in regional Australia.

Vodafone will soon be building more than 18 mobile base stations in the region around Armidale, dramatically improving our ­mobile coverage by an extra 2000sq km. This will deliver better mobile coverage and more employment opportunities in the community while giving more choice and competition to local consumers and businesses.

This would not have been possible without the government’s mobile black spot program and the support of the NSW government, which fund not only improvements in mobile coverage but also competition in regional and remote areas where it is severely lacking. The combination of subsidised construction of mobile stations with a requirement on industry to work together to share infrastructure is a major step forward for which both governments deserve significant credit.

Our geography and low population density means there are major challenges in ensuring regional and remote Australians can benefit from a choice of fixed and mobile telco providers.

Many Australian taxpayers would be surprised to learn that over the past decade Telstra has received more than one billion of their dollars to maintain and ­extend its network. There would be a huge outcry if a major supermarket chain received such substantial amounts of taxpayer funds to maintain its market dominance, but such a huge handout to the incumbent telco has gone largely unquestioned.

Further, Telstra charges monopoly prices for other operators to access its fixed transmission links, many of which were built when Telstra was a government-owned monopoly. To build mobile base stations, carriers need to connect to these fixed transmission links to take the voice and data traffic to the rest of the world. But there are some shoots of green; the policy environment is changing. The NBN rollout and the mobile black spot program are solutions

Australia will not achieve its potential, or lift its long-term economic and social wellbeing to its highest level without access to modern telecommunications services at affordable prices.

These are exciting opportunities and we look forward to ­continuing to work with government, industry and consumers to maximise the benefits of more competition and choice in telecommunications for regional and remote Australia.

Inaki Berroeta is the chief executive of Vodafone Australia.

View the full article here.

A long term sustainable approach to the preservation of rural areas through higher density residential development.

A long term sustainable approachDevelopment of rural land should focus on retaining and enhancing productive agricultural farm land. Increasing residential density tied to facilitating the agricultural capacity of the land could provide a solution for long term sustainability of rural landscapes, addressing demand for ‘rural living’ close to centres of significant population and locking in the majority ‘remnant land’ for genuine, sustainable agricultural purposes. Population growth and demand for ‘rural living’ in proximity to capital cities and regional centres places pressure on rurally zoned land. Maintaining land for agricultural is critical to ensure a sustainable future. Cultural and aesthetic qualities of ‘farming’ must be considered alongside food security, environmental preservation and energy conservation.

A long term sustainable approach to the preservation of rural areas through higher density residential development.

‘Cultural’ factors remain important but it can be argued they have overridden other considerations and encouraged subdivisions that fail to “…provide for the use of land for agriculture” or “…encourage the retention of productive agricultural land.” 1 Minimum lot sizes down to 20ha result in ‘nonproductive rural lifestyle properties’ dominating rural landscapes.

Priorities appear to be ‘to be seen to be rural’ rather than the ability to be capable of sustaining genuine agriculture. A case study on a 150ha farm on the Bellarine Peninsula explores the development of the land with a significantly increased residential yield while preserving the majority of the land for productive agricultural purposes.

The proposal provides a closed loop for waste and water, energy production and integrates a primary end user for the agricultural output, a high end restaurant reflecting the Bellarine Peninsula’s strategic vision. The components are tied through covenants and a common ownership and managed by the restaurant. Capital funding would be gained through residential sales. Master planning would address cultural aspects through tools such as clustering, environmental landscaping and design guidelines.

The paper was presented at the Australian Regional Development Conference in Albury this month by Leon Eyck M.Arch, Director, DE atelier Architects.  While it has been chosen as a published paper in the “Book of Proceedings” you can download an advance copy here.  Preservation of Rural Areas…