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Tuesday, 15 June 2010
Page: 5388


Mr BALDWIN (8:30 PM) —Improved telecommunications are an important issue for my electorate of Paterson. However, tonight I wish to raise two completely separate issues that have been brought to my attention recently involving installation of Optus mobile telephone towers at sites in my electorate of Paterson. On 28 April, I was contacted by Paul Le Motte on behalf of Jackie and Tony Richardson of 2 Mooghin Road, Seaham. In a letter Jackie Richardson said:

Just two weeks ago one of my neighbours was informed by Optus workers that a large phone tower was to be erected on the immediate adjoining property to us just 17 metres from our property boundary and only 40 metres from our family home. We have not and neither have any of our other neighbours been notified of this intention. We know as a home owner in the shire that we need approval to erect any structure on our land and that our neighbours would be notified and asked to lodge objections or concerns with council.

On 5 June, at a public meeting at the Mooghin Road site, which was organised by Mrs Richardson and attended by a large group of concerned residents, it was clear that this tower would impose and impact on these poor people. It is absolutely ridiculous and defies common sense that a tower is proposed to be sited so close to a house when there are plenty of suitable acreage sites around the area that would not impact on the community adversely.

Optus has advised me that the Seaham site is still only in a test phase. Optus has not yet presented a DA to council. However, I understand the 2B Mooghin Road site is Optus’s preferred site. At the meeting on 5 June, I was approached by Elisa Fitzpatrick of Martins Creek Road, Paterson. This site issue is somewhat different from Seaham one as the Paterson tower has already been approved by Dungog Shire Council. In a letter dated 8 June 2010, Elisa Fitzpatrick said:

We moved to Martins Creek Road, Paterson one and a half years ago after a battle with Maitland Council over the now erected mobile phone tower at the Morpeth Bowling Club. Our home was close, and our children are young, and after standing before the Council voicing Morpeth community’s objection to the tower and being ignored, we decided to take the tree change to Paterson. Now we face another tower.

The Paterson site is only 100 meters from our home and therefore our children, 7 days a week, 24 hours a day will be subjected to radiation whose health effects are by no means completely understood. Properties are 5-160 acres in this area and so 100m is relatively immediate. It appears that although Council policy states that there are exceptional circumstances when other properties are required to be notified prior to the DA going through Council, it was decided that we were not worthy of that exception.

We received a radiation report from Optus, which states that the radiation will peak at 97.3meters from the tower and we are approximately 100meters from the tower. How is it we receive the highest quantity of radiation from this tower and yet have known NOTHING until a bucket truck arrived on our fenceline a few weeks ago?

If this tower goes ahead, we will move. It will break my family’s heart, as we love so dearly our home. We have established an orchard, the children have chickens and donkeys, a tree house and a large vegetable patch. This was our dream and now, if we sell, we will lose money on this property, no one will want to live so close to a tower out here in the country. We will lose money that is largely borrowed.

Construction of the tower has not yet begun. There must be alternatives out here with so many large properties and mountainous country.

In conclusion, I acknowledge that Optus has followed all the guidelines, and legislation does not require that it consult nearby neighbours. However, it is abundantly clear to all that telecommunications companies need to be held more accountable for community consultation. At the moment, their legal requirements to the community are inadequate and need to be addressed. Is it not ironic that a tower cannot be built within 200 metres of a school, preschool or elderly home, yet it can be built as close as 40 metres from a family home? Had more consultation taken place, I am sure a compromise could have been struck so that all those involved would have been satisfied with the tower location. There is plenty of open space in both Paterson and Seaham. I have advised Optus of a number of options and I am working towards an acceptable solution with them. I am looking for alternative sites in Seaham. I urge Optus to reconsider the approved Paterson site. I also urge meaningful consultation and a fair result for everyone. After all, Optus will be after their business, carrying their mobile phone signal.