Faulty phone lines ‘won’t be tolerated’

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Fed-up residents in Maitai Valley say their home telephones “drop out” in the middle of conversations, calls go to the wrong home, and one family’s phone hasn’t been working for four months.

Nelson Weekly spoke with several families who live in Maitai Valley, just six kilometres from Nelson city, who say the phone service is so bad they’ve made more than 100 complaints between them; but have been repeatedly told there is not an issue.

The problem is made worse because the valley does not get cell phone reception.

Kevin Shirley says his family’s home phone hasn’t worked for four months but he continues to pay the bill because he doesn’t want to lose the line. “There are only so many land lines in the valley and if I give it up I may not be able to get it back,” he says.

When the phone was working, he says it would often drop out in the middle of a conversation and he’d get “ghost calls” in the middle of the night.

“The phone would ring in the middle of the night, wake up the whole family and when we answered it no one would be there,” he says.

He has also had people calling his home asking for his neighbours, despite the fact the numbers are very different.

Other neighbours have experienced the same issues. Hamish Kennedy has logged dozens of complaints to his phone provider, Timaru company Farmside Ltd, over the past year.

The big concern for many of the residents is calling 111 in the event of an emergency. If the phones aren’t working, they would have to get in a car and drive to a place where their cell phone would work to make a call. Kevin says that simply isn’t good enough.“We have two kids up here and if there was an emergency or if there was a fire and we couldn’t call 111, it could be disastrous, but they don’t care.”

Kevin says he has been told the issue is on his property, but he’s had it checked out and it isn’t. “Either way I don’t really care, I just want my phone to work.”

He says he’s given up complaining because each time it takes more than half an hour to get through to an operator and the problem isn’t fixed. “We had a friend who used to work for Telecom, and he said that the box up here is known as a piece of crap and it needs to be started again, but they just keep putting Band-Aids on it.”

Chorus says the faults could be for various reasons, including the box being too far away from a main transmitter, but that the problems are “clearly unacceptable”.

Steve Pettigrew, of Chorus, says the transmission box in the valley is well-known to the company and they are working hard to find a solution. “We’re well aware of the issues and have tried to fix it in the past, but clearly there are still issues with it. We’ll find out what’s going on, it won’t be tolerated.”