Caves Road phone tower approved
Councillors have narrowly approved a phone tower on Caves Road which nearby residents fear is superfluous and will harm the scenic drive’s allure.
At last week’s Shire of AugustaMargaret River council meeting, elected members grilled a planning consultant hired by Optus to argue the merits of the 60m tower now approved for Palandri Road in Burnside.
Daly International’s Stuart Coles was unable to answer many of the questions about the tower which were unrelated to his role, with councillors asking for Optus’ justification for the tower; how many users it served; how it functioned as part of the network; and why Optus was unable to co-locate its receivers on existing Telstra towers.
“I’m not opposed to towers,” Councillor Pam Townshend said.
“But I’d like to get more information because I’d like to see if it’s possible to put it further inland and what the options are for colocation.”
As outlined in The West Australian this week, fierce competition for the booming mobile market means co-operation between phone companies is unlikely, with Telstra defending control of its infrastructure in the Margaret River region against competitors.
Mr Coles said Optus had a “comprehensive plan” for increasing its network in the region that included catering to visitors.
Talk about deferring the item for more information was stymied by council consideration already falling outside the 90-day timeframe, meaning Optus would be able to go to the State Administrative Tribunal citing Shire inaction.
Cr Peter Lane declared a proximity interest in the item, leaving the vote to be split 3-3, approved on the casting vote of Shire president Ian Earl. Earlier, Caves Road resident Will Berliner addressed councillors about the need to avoid proliferation of unsightly telecommunications infrastructure along Caves Road, which had international appeal.
“We have a treasure here, and this treasure is under threat in large and small ways,” he said.
“It will be seen from Caves Road, Ellenbrook Road, Garstone Road and Burnside Road and we don’t need it.
“This isn’t going to be shielded at all. It’s going to stick out.”
Cr Townshend said it was important to consider the future spread of telecommunications towers and develop a guided approach to limit their encroachment.
Crs Kim Hastie and Michael Smart also supported the tower, citing consistency with previous tower approvals.
“The Shire serves our tourism and economic development,” Cr Hastie said.
“People are going to come here and they will expect a world-class telecommunications system.”
Cr Smart said people would adjust to the tower’s presence and doubted the visual impact would be severe, while Cr Earl said using the preferred site would help limit the number of towers needed overall.