Telstra mobile tower plans for The Gap, a killer WA fishing spot, have yet to be approved by the department

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Telstra is preparing to expand its network to include the southernmost coast of Western Australia, near tourist hotspot The Gap, just south of Albany.

The push for grid space began following the 2018 coroner’s inquest into the death of two fishermen on the site in 2015.

The tower appears to be located inside the Cave Point Lighthouse, but the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (DBCA) must give the green light to the project.

DBCA has confirmed that it is working with Telstra to assess the feasibility of the project.

Telstra regional chief executive Boyd Brown said he planned to present the plans to the DBCA “in the coming months”.

“If the site is approved, we hope to begin construction in early 2023 and have the site on the air by the end of March next year,” Brown said.

Tour among the coroner’s recommendations

Plans for a tower gained momentum after two men lost their lives off Salmon Holes in Albany’s Torndirrup National Park.

Chunjun Li, 42, and Jiaolong Zhang, 38, were fishing on the dangerous coast of on April 18, 2015, during a “heavy and massive swell”.

They weren’t wearing life jackets, but tied themselves to a rock with a rope.

Following intense waves, the men were swept into the sea and under water.

Mr. Li surfaced and ended up on the beach, but passers-by could not revive him.

Telstra plans to place the network infrastructure at the Cave Point Lighthouse.(ABC Great Southern: Tim Wong-See)

Mr. Zhang’s body was never found despite intensive searches on land, sea and air for four days.

The Deputy State Coroner made five recommendations in the wake of the tragedy.

Rock fishermen are required to wear life jackets after the incident.

The second recommendation was for Telstra to install a cell tower in the Eclipse Island area to help in the event of a future emergency.

DBCA reversed previous plans

Telstra attempted to set up a mobile base in Salmon Holes several years ago as part of the mobile blackspot scheme.

However, the site was refused by the DBCA due to the feared impact on the visual amenity of the national park.

No other location could be negotiated, so the plan was abandoned.

This means that the only mobile coverage in Salmon Holes is in the parking lot.

The current plan is to place a Telstra network at Cave Point Lighthouse, which is between The Gap and the Blowholes.

Mr Brown confirmed that a funding agreement was signed several months ago by Telstra and the federal and state governments.

He said Telstra was finalizing the infrastructure design, which would take a few months.

The 13.25 meter lighthouse, operated by the DBCA, is closed to the public.

Telstra also built a new site at Emu Point in June, and 5G upgrades at Pingrup, Spencer Park, Mount Adelaide and Jerramungup are all expected to be completed and released by the end of September.

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