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January 29, 2022

Concerns over Coorabell NBN tower

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A proposed 49-metre lattice-style NBN tower has activated Coorabell residents after NBN avoided lodging a DA with Byron Shire Council.

While a development application (DA) would provide local regulatory checks and balances, NBN Co are able to construct towers under a state government policy called the State Environmental Planning Policy (Infrastructure) 2007 (ISEPP).

There are instances were a council DA is required however, a NBN Co spokesperson told The Echo.

They said, ‘The height, location and distance from the nearest residential area means this tower falls under the ISEPP and does not require a DA. A report stating this has been provided to Byron Shire Council. Council was satisfied with the report and, as a result, construction is imminent.’

The spokesperson did not answer the question as to whether there were any baseline radiation levels that it could be later compared to.

In a report to the council on November 17, Cr Alan Hunter said he and other councillors recently met with residents concerned about the effects of electromagnetic fields (EMF).

He said, ‘We understand that there’s very little council can do; it’s a state and federal government decision… There’s been very little consultation,’ he said, adding that residents were at ‘their wits’ end.’

And owing to them not ‘getting any meaningful response from the NBN Co or the state government,’ Cr Hunter said he and his fellow councillors would follow up residents’ questions.

Regulator not independent

One potentially affected resident, Oren Siedler, says this is not just a NIMBY problem.

‘It is my understanding that these towers will be attempted to be put up all over the shire as time goes by.’

Siedler believes lattice towers are capable of adding more and more new emitting dishes as time passes and questioned the independence of the federal regulator, the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA).

‘In a presentation by Dr Pri Bandara at the Mullum Steiner school earlier this year, she clearly stated that ARPANSA are connected to the telecommunication industry and are therefore not as “independent” as they claim.

‘Most people do not know this. Also, Australia has one of the highest “safety levels” of electromagnetic fields (EMF) of anywhere in the world – set by ARPANSA.

‘Many people may not realise that the World Health Organisation (WHO) classified Electromagnetic Radiation (EMR) in 2011 as a class 2b possible carcinogen (joining DDT and lead). Subsequently there has been a plethora of scientific, peer-reviewed research to support this.

‘If the general public can be convinced to not just blindly trust ARPANSA, then this whole debate would be opened up to a wider audience and better scrutiny.

‘I personally see this as one of the crucial issues: most people just trust ARPANSA!

‘And anyone with young children should be doubly concerned as children are at higher risk (thinner skulls, smaller body mass etc). 

‘Another point is – if any shire in the country is going to fight back against involuntary blanket long-term bathing in radiation, it should be this progressive shire, setting an example…’

NBN Co reply

An NBN Co spokesperson told The Echo, ‘According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) and ARPANSA, there are no established adverse health effects from the fixed wireless technology used in the NBN network rollout.

‘The towers emit less radio energy than a taxi’s two-way radio.’

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  1. It is important to clarify what I said in my presentation which was focused on the scientific evidence of biological and health effects that occur at currently permitted exposure levels. I did say that ARPANSA appears to appease the industry interests and has reviewed the scientific literature in an appalling manner. Their conclusions are flawed and the claims of safety are scientifically unfounded. ACMA, as the regulator has an obvious conflict of interest drawing its revenue from the industry.

    The reported statement by the NBN ‘According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) and ARPANSA, there are no established adverse health effects from the fixed wireless technology used in the NBN network rollout.” is the propagation of a false and misleading statement. WHO’s IARC classified radiofrequency microwave electromagnetic radiation (RF/MW -EMR) as a possible human carcinogen based on credible evidence on an association between exposure and cancer. This classification applies to the agent (RF/MW-EMR) rather than the source – i.e. it does not matter if emitted by mobile phones, taxi radio or a fixed transmitter. The scientific evidence emerged after this classification in 2011 further supports this link with cancer and warrants an upgrade of this classification to a Class 1 carcinogen (Hardell L. and Carlberg M., Reviews of Environmental Health 2013;28(2-3):97-106).

    ARPANSA should be taking immediate measures to reduce the exposure of the Australian public to RF-EMR. Wired NBN infrastructure instead of wireless is the obvious safer way.

    It should be emphasized that the recommendations of the 2001 Senate Inquiry into EMR health effects included the following:

    Recommendation 2.3: The Committee recommends that based on a growing body of research that provides evidence of biological effects, the Commonwealth Government considers developing material to advise parents and children of the potential risks associated with mobile phone use.

    Recommendation 2.5: The Committee Chair recommends that the Government review the Telecommunications (Low-impact Facilities) Determination 1997, and as a precautionary measure, amend it to enable community groups to have greater input into the siting of antenna towers and require their installation to go through normal local government planning processes.

    The Australian Federal and State governments should no longer ignore these recommendations.


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