Calls are being made to extend cellphone coverage at Himatangi Beach before summer, with emergency services labelling blackout areas "dangerous".
Himatangi Beach Community Committee member George Annear said the lack of cellphone coverage in the area was unsafe. He is part of a group encouraging residents to get behind a petition requesting commercial phone companies to improve coverage at the beach.
"We get a large number of visitors in summer and they run out of coverage sometimes and get into a bad situation when an emergency occurs," he said. "It's becoming a safety issue."
The Himatangi Beach Community Trust received support from the community's emergency services when it mounted a campaign last month for Vodafone and Telecom to extend their coverage in the area.
Himatangi volunteer fire brigade chief Wayne Dear said emergency services considered the lack of cellphone coverage dangerous, considering the popularity of the beach during the summer, when many Palmerston North residents descended upon the surf.
The Palmerston North Hospital's emergency department recorded multiple accidents last summer at Himatangi Beach, with people injuring themselves on quad-bikes and motorbikes, and in cars.
"The lack of cellphone coverage particularly affects us, we can't make calls," Mr Dear said. "If we're up the beach and we have got no cellphone coverage, it's one of those sorts of problems that grows every year. In the summer there's more and more people and car accidents on the beach."
Mr Annear plans to present the petition, which so far has about 200 signatures, to the Manawatu District Council on Thursday in the hope the council will add some clout to the community's request for better coverage.
Mr Annear said most of the signatures came from permanent residents, but another petition would probably be circulated at the start of summer, when the beach's population swelled with bach owners and day visitors from Palmerston North.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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