‘When one leg’s on one side of the fence and the other leg is on the other side, you end up sitting on it.’
This comment from Byron Councillor Michael Lyon aptly summarised the Council’s response to Telstra’s plans for a 5G upgrade close to two daycare centres in the Arts and Industry Estate.
The proposed upgrade to the tower at 8 Acacia Street has drawn strong objections from many locals living and working nearby, as well as 5G opponents across the Shire.
But Byron Council’s feedback to Telstra on the issue was more about fence-sitting than fighting for a cause.
There were stark divisions among councillors during a lengthy debate at last week’s Council planning meeting, and in the end they unanimously avoided taking a position on whether or not the upgrade should go ahead.
A motion, put by Cr Michael Lyon, and seconded by Greens Cr Sarah Ndiaye, reads, ‘Council… recognises that the low impact facility complies with the current Australian government regulations in relation to emission of electromagnetic energy’.
Council also requested a ‘commitment by a state or federal government body to do a comprehensive review of the cumulative impacts of the 5G technology’ and asked who held responsibility for monitoring any such impacts.
Finally, the Council indicated its ‘preference’ for fibre optic cable as a ‘more equitable’ and less intrusive technology for internet provision.
Though the eight councillors present at the meeting voted for the motion, it did not appear to align with the stated positions of any of them.
Mayor supports 5G
Earlier, Labor councillor Paul Spooner unsuccessfully moved a motion offering unqualified support for the 5G upgrade.
‘I want to speak as a student of science who’s interested in what’s really best for our community’, Cr Spooner said.
‘Mobile technology is a non-ionising form of technology. Mobile technologies are trying to do good in our community by doing things like delivering E-health services.
‘I really think we should be supporting these efforts in our community, rather than just listening to the fears in our community that are reflecting some pretty nefarious sources’.
Greens Mayor Simon Richardson, and Alan Hunter supported this motion, but the others opposed it.
Receiving somewhat more support, but also ultimately being defeated, was a motion from fellow Green Sarah Ndiaye opposing the plan.
‘We’re here to represent our community, and I think it’s clear that there is considerable opposition to this plan out there’, Cr Ndiaye said.
She also pointed out that the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency’s (ARPANSA) statements that 5G technology was safe, were accompanied by a significant qualification.
‘If you go onto ARPANSA’s website, they say we are not a health body, and that they don’t take responsibility for the advice they provide’, Cr Ndiaye said.
Earlier, the meeting heard from local mother and investor Claire Alexander-Johnston who said current internet speeds were ‘absolutely adequate’ for tech-based companies in the Arts & Industrial estate.