Optus 5G tower approved through council
Local mum Candice Bauer made a submission in opposition to the Optus 5G tower. Photo: TAHLIA FACER
by Tahlia Facer
A controversial 5G Optus tower has been approved for construction by a majority vote at the Bundaberg Regional Council’s ordinary meeting.
While the 6 Bridge Street tower is set for construction within an industrial site, it will also neighbor several parks, sports facilities, a backpacker hostel and a number of residential homes – the nearest just 100 meters away.
The tower is proposed to be a 25 meter high monopole which will hold eight Optus panel antennas with a triangular head frame on top of the monopole, with the tallest antenna at a height of 26.5 meters above natural ground level.
The proposal also includes the installation of additional equipment such as the antenna mounts, safety fence, cable ladder, stairs, steel platform and handrails.
The development application was discussed in detail at last week’s information session and was opposed by three councilors at the vote on Tuesday morning.
Councilor Tracey McPhee, the most vocal of the three, raised a number of concerns about the development application and its inability to meet the council’s own acceptable outcomes.
Acceptable outcome AO1.2 of the telecommunications facilities code requires any proposal to be located a minimum distance of 400 meters from residential properties, 500 meters from childcare facilities and 20 meters from any public footpath.
“We have heard that there are 66 hostels and a backpacker hostel within a 400 meter radius of the site,” Cr McPhee said.
“I did a quick count of the square meters, and it’s not exact, but it gives us a good indication of the land use in the area.
“About 77 percent of the land use in that 400 meters is parks and open spaces and residential … and about 21 percent of that is industrial.
“Kendall Flat Cricket Ground, Lake Ellen Playground, East Rotary Park and the East Bundy Dog Park are all within that 500 metres, and 22 meters away is a public park which is actually part of the main cycle network for our region.”
The site is also within 150 meters of the heritage-listed East Bundaberg Water Tower, and is approximately 500 meters from St John’s Lutheran Primary School.
Cr McPhee said the report commented on Acceptable Outcome 1.2 and stated that the development was seen within a largely commercial and industrial area.
“It’s just my opinion, but I don’t consider 21 per cent to be … a large area of the whole percentage,” Cr McPhee said.
The Division 4 councilor went on to explain that because the development did not meet the acceptable outcome, the council would then look at the performance outcomes.
“The report states that officers agree with the applicant that the site in question is mostly characterized by an industrial environment and, by ensuring that the facility is finished in colors that blend with the landscape, the telecommunications facility will be considered to be under compatible uses and satisfy that performance outcome,” she said.
“There are numerous industrial uses that operate in that area, but I have to look at the total percentage again, and about 77 percent of that area is parks, open space and residential.
“I’m not convinced that conditioning the application and painting that facility a specific color makes it a compatible use.”
At the briefing, it was outlined that the applicant had looked at a range of other locations and considered co-locating on an existing monopoly, but those options did not meet coverage expectations or requirements.
Optus submitted an Electromagnetic Energy (EME) report and a council representative stated that the maximum EME output would be 50 times less than the Australian standard, and would be “well below the acceptable level”.
But Cr McPhee said after hours of research she was unable to locate any interpretation guide for the electromagnetic frequencies (EMF) figures provided in the environmental report.
“My concern is who wrote the report and how easy that information is to interpret,” she said.
“The report is generally produced by a network operator such as a mobile phone company or consultants working on their behalf.
“The fact that the report was not prepared by an independent entity, that is what worries me.”
Cr McPhee said she tried to understand what the EMF reading and accompanying report findings actually meant, but could not find any useful information.
“I spent hours and hours trying to figure out what the standard is for an acceptable level of radio frequency and electromagnetic energy, and what exactly 2.15 percent out of 100 percent, as stated in the report, of public exposure limit actually means, and I couldn’t find it,” she said.
“I just want to say that in the past many times in our country’s history we have been told that things are safe, but it turns out that they are not.”
The councilor detailed the events of radioactivity in areas in the 50s where people have not been able to inhabit until today, the Asbestos debacle which was found unsafe in 1935 but was not removed from building products until 1980, and cigarette smoke as other cases of supervision of the health of the public.
“I’m not saying that this current technology is going to have the same effect on our society as a nuclear bomb [but] what I’m saying is that right now there’s not enough research to know either way,” Cr McPhee said.
“There is nothing conclusive to say that it is safe or not, and research and testing is still being undertaken around the world, including our government.
“It is very clear that residents and the general public have concerns about 5G and the effects it may have on our health and our privacy and our rights, and for these reasons I cannot support the application.”
Cr May Mitchell also spoke against the development application.
Bundaberg Mayor Jack Dempsey thanked his fellow councilors for sharing their concerns and took a moment to speak in support of the tower.
“There are enormous benefits, especially with this tower and where it is positioned in East Bundaberg,” Cr Dempsey said.
“There were thousands of them and South Bundaberg was very affected during the disasters and one of the main forms of risk during disasters is telecommunications.
“It gets that information out as quickly as possible in times of need to keep our community safe.”
He also outlined the benefits of increased coverage for those who work from home, run businesses or participate in telehealth and homeschooling programs.
Crs McPhee, Mitchell and McLoughlin voted against the item with Crs Dempsey, Trevor, Honor, Barnes, Habermann, Cooper and Learmonth voting in favor of the telecommunications tower.