Dunoon residents erupted in cheers at last night’s Lismore City Council meeting after a controversial mobile phone tower planned for their village was put on hold till further consultation over alternative sites for the facility.
The proposed site for the installation of the microwave tower to improve mobile reception in the area next to the Dunoon water reservoir was opposed by many village residents.
Councillors requested that Telstra engage in further consultation with the community on alternative sites and to conduct culturally appropriate consultation with the Aboriginal community.
Cr Graham Meineke put forward the original motion to enter into a lease with Telstra for the proposed tower but it was voted down in favour of Cr Vanessa Ekins’s amended notice of motion. Cr Ekins referred to recent research by the Australian National University (ANU), which indicated a link between microwave towers and cancer clusters, and questioned Telstra representative Robert Sargis about the service provider’s knowledge of this research.
‘There is a multitude of research out there; we are complying within the standards of the World Health Organisation (WHO),’ Mr Sargis said.
Cr Ekins suggested that the WHO’s guidelines are ‘inadequate; our own universities are telling us this’.
Cr Ekins said she empathised with the community’s desire for better reception, but was concerned about the ‘planned 20-plus microwave towers that will be in our area’.
‘I am also worried about us in 10 years’ time when we could have all sorts of tumours from these wireless technologies that we are madly implementing and using in our homes now. These towers should not be put in the middle of communities.’
Cr Gianpiero Battista supported the Dunoon community’s wishes for an investigation into alternative sites and questioned Mr Sargis about the number of houses that fall within a 500-metre radius of the facility.
‘Twenty houses fall into this range; they have been notified with packages that included drawings and photo montages,’ Mr Sargis said.
Mr Sargis made it known that Telstra attempted to contact the Aboriginal community via email.
‘We all know that this is not the way to consult with that community,’ Cr Ekins said.
Cr Battista raised the idea that a ‘cash-strapped’ council may want the proposal to go ahead for the 20-year rental factor.
Both Cr Battista and Cr Ekins criticised Telstra’s consultation process and said they were disappointed the issue came up for decision when Council had cancelled a dedicated workshop set down for later this month, which would have enabled further discussion of the leasing arrangement.
Dunoon resident Emma Stone told councillors during public access that the proposed site for the tower was the Dorrobbee Grassland, a unique environment that was originally reserved in 1878 for camping and recreation.
‘I do believe the grasslands are not forwarded their due respect in their role in biodiversity,’ Ms Stone said.
‘There is already documented cultural significance of this land. CEO of Ngulingah Local Aboriginal Land Council was unable to attend tonight’s meeting due to commitments elsewhere in the state, but he was to attend the (cancelled) workshop set for May.’
Ms Stone believes that the consultation period was inadequate for this proposal and asked that Council provide evidence that ‘alternative sites with less significance have been adequately and genuinely investigated’.
‘I am not opposed to the establishment of a telecommunication tower,’ she said, ‘but I would be very disappointed to see it positioned on the Dorrobbee Grassland site.
‘I understand that the topographic position of the grasslands makes it a prominent landscape, but it is not an appropriate landscape; neither is it the only position for it.’
Dunoon is currently serviced by a major telecommunication facility and tower at Mt Nardi, which Mr Sargis said was inadequate for current mobile technology and current demand.
‘The current program for the new base-station facilities across the Lismore local government area (LGA) include new sites at Dunoon, Clunes, Goonellabah and Nimbin that are designed to relieve the facility at Mt Nardi,’ he said.