Res­i­dents lose fight over phone tower

Augusta Margaret River Times - - News - War­ren Hately Deputy Shire pres­i­dent Ju­lia Mel­drum. What do you think? Email let­ters to edi­tor@am­r­

Res­i­dents off Stevens Road in Redgate have joined the ranks of lo­cal peo­ple los­ing out to ma­jor telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions com­pa­nies af­ter an­other con­tentious 43m tower was ap­proved by the coun­cil ear­lier this month.

Shire of Au­gusta-Mar­garet River coun­cil­lors ex­pressed frus­tra­tion at their June 13 meet­ing that “dis­cre­tionary” ap­proval for phone tow­ers ap­peared to serve de­vel­op­ers rather than the com­mu­nity.

“It seems very hard to use our pow­ers of dis­cre­tion when it comes to telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions tow­ers,” act­ing Shire pres­i­dent Ju­lia Mel­drum said.

Res­i­dent James Fos­ter crit­i­cised con­sul­ta­tion with Op­tus con­trac­tors about the lo­ca­tion of the tower, which was be­hind a tree plan­ta­tion slated for clear­ing and would not re­main hid­den. Mr Fos­ter said no dis­cus­sion was pos­si­ble about mov­ing the tower to a bet­ter nearby site.

“There has been no con­sul­ta­tion with peo­ple who live in the area what­so­ever,” he said.

“A land­scap­ing plan will do lit­tle to shield a 43m phone tower on a hill.”

Mr Fos­ter also said he was not “sat­is­fied the op­tion of co-lo­ca­tion has been ex­hausted”.

A sim­i­lar is­sue was raised dur­ing tower ap­provals last year, with coun­cil­lors wor­ried about the fu­ture ef­fect of in­creas­ing num­bers of tow­ers across the Leeuwin-Nat­u­ral­iste Ridge.

Last fort­night coun­cil­lors again mulled the lack of lon­grange strate­gic plan­ning for the pro­lif­er­a­tion of tow­ers, driven by con­sumer de­mand.

“I don’t sup­port these tow­ers pop­ping up all over our beau­ti­ful coun­try­side,” Cr Mel­drum said.

Op­tus rep­re­sen­ta­tive Mark Byrnes from Com­plan said tower shar­ing was of ben­e­fit to phone com­pa­nies but was not pos­si­ble on Stevens Road where the telco aimed to in­crease cov­er­age over black spots.

Sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment di-rec­tor Dale Put­land said the Shire’s hands were tied be­cause any fur­ther con­sul­ta­tion once plans were sub­mit­ted could cause de­lays, trig­ger­ing a 90-day clause al­low­ing Op­tus to take the mat­ter to the State Ad­min­is­tra­tive Tri­bunal for an im­me­di­ate de­ci­sion.

“It’s treated as crit­i­cal in­fra­struc­ture for our com­mu­nity,” Dr Put­land said.

“Op­tus is go­ing to use their own con­sul­tants and they are just go­ing to give you the same ar­gu­ment they gave you tonight.”

It was “not prac­ti­cal” for the Shire to in­ves­ti­gate other plan­ning op­tions, he said.

Cr Peter Lane said it was re­gret­table there was no plan­ning pro­vi­sion al­low­ing tow­ers to be re­jected.

“We are here, per­haps, to lit­tle more than rub­ber stamp it,” he said.

Cr Naomi God­den said she was dis­ap­pointed to ap­prove more tow­ers but noted in­ter­net con­nec­tion was now con­sid­ered “a hu­man right” by the United Na­tions.

Pic­ture: El­e­ments

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