Treacherous driving conditions and lack of phone coverage on only route to Kaikoura
Calls for cellphone coverage on the inland road to Kaikoura are increasing as the wintry weather closes in.
A petition has been launched to gather support for Kaikoura to be included by the Rural Connectivity Group proposal of 520 new cell phone sites.
Bin Kennedy, who lives on the Inland Rd, is one of three residents behind the petition, and said with the increased traffic on the once quiet route, it was now or never.
The road was the only route in and out of Kaikoura that was accessible 24 hours since the November earthquake, she said.
"It's now that it's needed. The coast road is ages away from being fixed, and every time we get a big dump of rain more slips will come down.
"Even before the earthquake it would get shut because of slips."
Kennedy said there were many crashes along the road, often involving tourists, and the fact they could not call for help was a major concern.
Farmers along Inland Rd were often called upon to help get cars and campervans back on the road with their tractors, she said.
"Naturally cellphone coverage would be great out on the farm in the event of an emergency too, but it's far more important for the road users, especially with the increase in traffic now.
"These poor tourists are beside themselves. They have to walk to a farmhouse and we end up pulling their car out of a ditch with the tractor.
"We are very lucky no-one's been killed there."
Cellphone coverage would also be invaluable for emergency services, she said, and the petition had broad support from police, St John, the Fire and Emergency New Zealand, and rescue helicopter operators.
Garden City Helicopters general manager Simon Duncan said there had been significantly more callouts to the area since the earthquake, and delays in responding could cost lives. He seriously encouraged the Telcos to get behind the idea.
"The whole philosophy for calling out a rescue helicopter is about speed, distance, and getting the necessary medical skill set to the patient in time."
Kennedy said it was ridiculous the road was not eligible for the Government-funded programme to improve coverage in rural and remote areas because it was neither a highway nor a designated tourist area.
"It has been acting like a highway and will continue to do so for probably another 12 months," she said.
"And how is it not a tourist area? It's the way people get into Kaikoura, as well as going through to Hanmer Springs and the Lewis Pass."
Copies of the petition can be signed at Kaikoura i-Site, Dolphin Encounter, Farmlands, Hunting & Fishing, New World, Kaikoura Pharmacy, The Lobster Inn, Night & Day and Cods & Crays. There are also petitions available to sign in Hanmer Springs and at the Christchurch i-Site.