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Byron Shire
September 28, 2021

Schools too close? Not for NBN

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The proposed tower will be similar in height and structure to the tower NBN tower in Coorabell. Photo supplied.

The NBN tower being rolled out in Main Arm within 500m of Durrumbul primary school and pre-school has led to NBN initially denying that there was a NSW education policy on mobile telecommunications facilities stating that they have ‘a preference for a distance of at least 500 metres from the boundary of the property’. After being provided with a copy of the policy by Echonetdaily NBN responded that ‘The NSW Department of Education does not actually implement its own policy with regards to siting of telecommunications facilities near schools.’

According to local resident Anton Vanderbyl ‘Children, it is known, absorb five times more microwave radiation than adults and are therefore highly vulnerable microwave EMR  (electro-magnetic radiation) emissions.’

The director of Durrumbul Pre-School, Anna Benson has expressed her concern at the close proximity of the tower to the pre-school saying, ‘Obviously we don’t want it anywhere near children. It needs to be as far away as possible from all people.’

A spokesperson for the department of education ‘The school (Durrumbul Public School) has very recently become aware of the proposal and is considering it.’

DA not required

Confusion over the requirement for a development application (DA) for a 45m NBN tower being rolled out near local schools and residences has been clarified by Byron Council. The proposed 45m NBN tower, 10m higher that the one recently rejected at Wilsons Creek, does not require a DA.

‘Staff had initially thought that this proposal would be subject to a DA – however a closer review of the information received from Vision Stream has revealed that the proposal falls under the SEPP Infrastructure and as such does not require council approval,’ said a spokesperson.

The confusion in Thursday’s Byron Shire Council meeting (October 19) when sustainable environment and economy director, Shannon Burt mistakenly told councillors that a development application (DA) was required led to the Mayor Simon Richardson and Councillor Michael Lyon not pursuing a motion they had prepared on council lodging a submission to Visionstream and NBN Co opposing the installation.

Responding to Echonetdaily an NBN spokesperson has confirmed that there is no difference between the comment NBN have requested from council and a submission.

‘Anything council puts to NBN in writing is considered a submission and NBN will duly consider it,’ confirmed an NBN spokesperson.

NBN promise not to install

In 2015, with the role out of the NBN network, Mr Vanderbyl raised his concerns regarding the impact of fixed wireless technology with then communications minister, Malcolm Turnbull.

On April 7 2015 Mr Vanderbyl received a letter from Mr Turnbull that contained a promise from NBN ‘that if there is clear community opposition to the use of fixed wireless technology to provide better broadband, that area would then be serviced by a satellite solution.’

When questioned by Echonetdaily regarding this commitment an NBN spokesperson stated that ‘NBN did not make any agreements with the community at Main Arm or with any communities that prejudice the outcome of community consultation.’

‘The decision of which technology is to be deployed is based on many factors such as what is most cost-effective, best-fit and efficient rollout technology for the area. This technology selection process is not a consultative one however, we do engage with councils to abide by relevant planning and development laws, and to inform the community of the network rollout. This has been the case with Main Arm to date and will continue throughout the construction period.’

Community meeting

If you are interested in finding out more about the proposed installation of the tower then join the local community at a meeting being held this Thursday, October 25 at Durrumbul Hall at 6pm.

NBN is also holding a community information session at Kohinur Hall on Tuesday, October 30 from 3 till 6pm. Comments can be submitted to NBN on the proposal until Wednesday November 7 via [email protected], PO Box 5452, West End Qld. 4101 or call 1300 745 210.

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  1. NBN may not have made any agreements with any communities but they made one with Malcolm Turnbull as Communications Minister and we intend to hold NBN to it.

  2. I do not know why it would be “obvious” that people would not want towers near schools. Emmissions from towers must follow ARPANSA guidelines. There is no body in the Northern Rivers better qualified than ARPANSA to ensure radiation is safe for our schildren, and certainly much better qualifed than is Vanderbyl and other members of the immediate community. The NBN and our schools are funded by the Commonwealth and State governments and they should not follow other than the best advice and not be compromised by unfounded expressions of concern by communities or councils.


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