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Council approves Telstra’s bid to build north phone tower despite backlash

Thursday, 19th February, 2015

Willyama High School P & C Secretary Alison Burt was bitterly disappointed by yesterday’s decision to allow the tower to be built within 500 metres of the school. Willyama High School P & C Secretary Alison Burt was bitterly disappointed by yesterday’s decision to allow the tower to be built within 500 metres of the school.

By Erica Visser

The impassioned pleas of around 50 residents who turned up at a meeting yesterday to oppose the construction of Telstra’s 10-storey phone tower wasn’t quite enough to sway Council.

Councillors yesterday voted five to four to allow the structure to be built at the North Family Play Centre site in the wake of legal action over the rejection of a previous proposed site at Chapple Lane.

But it wasn’t easy, with councillors who spoke in favour of the development matched by frustrated residents who felt the fear of facing Telstra at the Land and Environment Court (LEC) was taking precedence over concerns regarding health and property values.

“Say our house tries to sell, who’s going to buy it? Nobody. This is what you’re doing to us,” said elderly resident Raymond Russell.

“This is all we’ve got. Our homes.”

Fisher Street resident Melissa Mahoney was particularly worried about exposure to undetermined levels of electromagnetic radiation (EMR).

“Thirty years ago I had a brain tumour. I still have residual tissue present. I have supporting literature here... that makes people aware that excessive exposure to EMR can cause such tissue to regrow,” Ms Mahoney said. 

“I don’t wish to live ...directly in line with the position of this tower with the fear that my brain tumour could regrow.”

A Telstra representative who attended the meeting had assured changes to EMR levels would be monitored by a third party.

Crs Christine Adams, Marion Browne, Dave Gallagher, Peter Black and Mayor Wincen Cuy voted for the tower, which would provide superior phone coverage at Broken Hill’s North and take pressure of the existing two towers. 

However Cr Black told the meeting that he was doing so reluctantly given the costs the LEC case would incur.

“The reality is that Telstra has this Council literally by the short and curlies. I see no alternatives.”

Cr Bob Algate seemed to agree, although he voted in the opposite direction.

“We’re going to lose the court case if we don’t pass it but we’re going to lose the public’s faith if we pass it.” 

Cr Browne, who voted in favour of the motion, said that people were more at risk of EMR exposure if they use an electric blanket or use a mobile phone. 

Council had previously rejected Development Applications for two alternate sites, one at Chapple Lane nearby a bus depot and the other in the carpark of a Williams Street store. 

Telstra will drop the impending legal action as a result of the decision.

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