Caves Road phone tower ap­proved

Augusta Margaret River Times - - News - War­ren Hately

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.

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