Members of the Durrumbul and Main Arm community came together last Thursday to discuss the proposed NBN tower that is within 500m of both the local Durrumbul primary and preschools. They then followed up at a meeting with NBN at Kohinur Hall in Main Arm on Tuesday afternoon.
The proposed tower will service 150 properties and is for internet data only – it will not provide increased mobile phone coverage.
Concerns were raised over the impact of electromagnetic radiation (EMR) both on students at the schools and residents. According to the presentation at the community meeting, children are five times more susceptible to the microwave EMR radiations than adults.
While the majority of residents who attended NBNs meeting at Kohinur Hall opposed the tower NBN said that they ‘received a formal submission in favour, as well as a separate request from another Main Arm resident to add another antenna to expand the service.’
NBN confirmed with Echonetdaily that ‘It’s not likely there’ll be other antennas added, but it’s possible.’
School has fibre
Durrumbul and Upper Main Arm Public Schools as well as many residents within the 2.5km range of the exchange at Main Arm Village are already connected to the internet via the existing fibre network.
One local who didn’t want to be named said ‘We have the best connection to the internet in the Shire so why do we have to have a tower put next to our house that won’t even be servicing us?’
Similarly the school will receive no benefit from the NBN tower that will be within 500m of a school boundary in contravention of NSW education policy on mobile towers .
‘There is fibre laid from the Main Arm exchange to both Upper Main Arm School and Durrumbul School,’ said resident Anton Vanderbyl.
‘This was done when Kevin Rudd was PM, so schools could have fast internet, the existence and utilisation of this fibre for the rest of the community is what I raised with Malcolm Turnbull and NBN in 2015.’
An NBN spokesperson told Echonetdaily that ‘The fibre you refer to is not NBN’s fibre and we have no commercial rights to access it. Our coverage area spans 8km – so the fibre to the school is both inaccessible and inadequate. It’s not considered feasible in rural areas like Main Arm which are similar to the other areas across the northern rivers which is why we have 70 FW facilities in this area.’
This includes seven towers in the Byron Shire area.
Property prices may drop
According to Paul Eatwell from Mullumbimby Professionals real estate the tower will impact on the value of properties near the tower.
‘Most people who are moving here are trying to get away from the cities and the technology being on their doorstep,’ said Mr Eatwell.
‘When a property is put on the market we have to disclose what we are aware of in that area that may effect the decision of the buyer to purchase the property.
‘Of prospective buyers I would estimate that 70 per cent, once they know a tower was within close proximity of the property, would be very reluctant to buy. What this does is it brings down the prospects of a sale therefore, if it doesn’t sell and sits on the market you will likely get an offer of a much lower price than you would have received had the tower not been there.
‘When it comes down to it the public is very distrusting of communications companies and the data they provide. Many buyers would just decide that it is better not to buy there,’ said Mr Eatwell.
While NBN have told Mr Vanderbyl that fibre-to-the-node was not suitable in a rural area owing to population density and technical issues such as transmission distances he points out that a cost comparison has never been done.
‘Many people will be unable to access this tower due to intervening topography, a fibre-to-the-node-based distribution would likely reach more people. Given the average tower costs about $1.5m, one would think some sort of fibre network could be established for that price,’ said Mr Vanderbyl.
A spokesperson for the minister for Communications Mitch Fifield told Echonetdaily that, ‘NBN Co is building the network at arm’s length from the government. The Australian government is not involved in day-to-day technology selection and network design decisions. These are operational matters for the company.’
Petition to stop the tower
The local group, Environment and Community Safe From Radiation (ECSFR), that started up to stop the Telstra tower at Wilsons Creek, have started a petition at www.ecsfr.com.au/main-arm/ asking MP Justine Elliot to stop the tower. They are also recommending that anyone opposed to the tower put in a submission to NBN before November 7 via [email protected], PO Box 5452, West End Qld. 4101 or call 1300 745 210 or contact their local councillors to highlight your concerns.
For more information see the ECSFR website.
An NBN spokesperson has told Echonetdaily that they ’will consider feedback included in submissions as part of assessing the merits of the proposal against the Environment Planning and Assessment Act (EP&A) as required by ISEP.’
However, there are concerns within the local community that NBN won’t give due weight to submissions that oppose the tower.