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‘Council lacks tower power’

Tuesday, 28th April, 2015

North residents Fred Smith and Barbara De Franceschi have urged people to join them in objecting to changes in Telstra’s plans for a phone tower next to the North Pool. North residents Fred Smith and Barbara De Franceschi have urged people to join them in objecting to changes in Telstra’s plans for a phone tower next to the North Pool.

By Erica Visser

North residents might be up in arms over Telstra’s plans to build a 10-storey phone tower but it isn’t City Council’s place to stop it.

That is according to the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association which has spoken out following the public backlash to the telco giant’s bid to ditch conditions requiring it to monitor potentially harmful electromagnetic emissions (EME) coming from the site next to the Aquatic Centre.

The association’s CEO, Chris Althaus, said the federal safety regulations, monitored by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), already offered enough protection. 

“It is not the responsibility or role of local councils to impose requirements in addition to federal regulations,” he said.

“The maximum predicted EME level at this site is just 0.66 per cent of the standard, and the actual operating levels will be in the order of 0.066 per cent.”

Mr Althaus said fears surrounding the close proximity of the site to houses and schools were misguided.

“There is a mistaken belief that the further a base station is away from people the less they would be exposed to the radio signals,” he said.

“Once a call is connected, both mobile phones and their base stations are designed to operate at the lowest levels to make a quality connection and therefore, base stations are constantly adapting their output levels depending on the number of connections they are handling and how far away the handsets are from them.

“The further a base station is built from mobile phone users, the more power it will need to operate, which could increase exposures in that area - the very thing such approaches are trying to avoid.

“In most circumstances the best location to build base stations in order to minimise emissions is closest to where those services are required.”

The ACMA policy on EME, which was available for viewing online, stated it was in the best interests of companies such as Telstra to stay well within exposure limits.

“In general, the less EME that is emitted, the fewer problems they will have in managing radio communications interference across their network,” the policy read.

Council is awaiting an independent report before decides whether to allow Telstra to drop the conditions, including planting six eucalyptus trees to conceal the base of the tower.

It is also still awaiting confirmation that Telstra had dropped action at the Land and Environment Court concerning Council’s rejection of an alternative Chapple Lane site. 

A Residents Action Group has encouraged others to object to the changes before the cut off for public submissions on Friday.

The residents were expected to attend a Council meeting starting at 6.30 tonight to voice their objections.

Cr Jim Richards said it was important Council took into consideration the concerns of residents living near the tower site, as well as the Willyama High School.

“The clauses should be in there to protect the residents and check everything’s okay,” he said yesterday.

“...I don’t think Council should be bowing down to any corporate body. I think Council needs to view the independent report first.

“You can never be 100 per cent sure but I think that Council management will probably put in that the report be received and any recommendations made be taken up.

“All the submissions will be addressed.”

Council approved the tower at its February meeting despite the impassioned pleas of around 50 residents who attended.

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