NBN clears hurdle in Scottsdale tower dispute

NBN Co is moving ahead with the rollout of the NBN in Tasmania, winning an appeal for a fixed wireless tower in Scottsdale.

NBN Co has received planning approval for a fixed wireless tower in Scottsdale, Tasmania, following the initial rejection of the tower by Dorset council.

In August this year seven councillors voted against the construction of a National Broadband Network (NBN) facility (two voted for), with an appeal lodged by NBN Co against the decision.

Agreement has now been reached between NBN Co and Dorset council over the construction of the facility, with a decision handed down by the Resource Management and Planning Appeal Tribunal (RMPAT) giving the go-ahead for the facility.

“The decision of the Appeal Tribunal is that the decision of the Dorset council … appealed against is set aside and in substitution therefore a permit is to [be] issue[d],” the RMPAT’s report stated.

However, the facility’s construction must meet several requirements relating to environmental impact, appearance and construction hours.

Although the facility has now been approved for planning, a building permit for the facility must also be lodged with council.

The dispute began when Aurecon, of behalf of Ericsson, lodged a planning application with Dorset council on 9 July this year for an NBN facility comprising a 35m monopole, antennas, an outdoor cabinet (with another to be built in the future), and ancillary equipment. The facility was proposed to be built on the Scottsdale golf course.

A petition by Karen Seelig, lodged on behalf of the North East Residence Action Group, stated: “This tower emits radiation. We cannot allow this to be built in our town. Please sign below and support the health of everyone especially our children.”

The concerns centred around the health impacts of radiation emissions from the tower, negative visual impacts, a negative impact on surrounding property values and a lack of public consultation over the tower.

On 20 August this year Dorset council stated the health impacts of the tower could not be assessed under the Planning Scheme, with radiation emissions mandated by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).

In its council minutes, Dorset council stated the planning proposal achieved a balance between limiting visual impacts and the requirements of telco towers, but was still opposed by seven councillors. This was due to the tower having a negative visual impact and non-compliance with Schedule 5, which encourages sharing facilities.

At the same Dorset council meeting in August, another NBN fixed wireless tower was approved at Winnaleah, 39kms east of Scottsdale, for a 30m monopole, antennas and outdoor equipment.

One public submission was received for the facility, with concerns surrounding radiation emissions, the community being unaware it would need a tower for the NBN, poor communication to the public about the facility and the visual impact of the tower.

The proposal was carried unanimously and approved.

Further hurdles ahead for NBN Co

NBN Co will still need to overcome several other hurdles for the construction of NBN facilities in Tasmania, with another NBN Co tower currently before the RMPAT.

The proposed tower in the Huon Valley region is for a fixed wireless facility at Garden Island Creek. This facility would provide NBN wireless coverage to Garden Island Creek and serve as an ‘anchor point’ for other NBN wireless facilities in the wider Hobart area.

The proposal includes a 40m monopole, antennas and outdoor equipment cabinets.

Several residents have lodged submissions with the Huon Valley council to oppose the tower, with residents stating more time should be given to assess and research the impact of the facility, the tower would cause “scenic destruction” and impact on views and it would be an “invasion of space”.

A directions hearing for the appeal is due to be heard in late November.

A total of 93 per cent of homes and businesses will be connected to the NBN via fibre-to-the-home, primarily in towns with more than 1000 premises.

Around 4 per cent of households will be connected via fixed wireless networks and another 3 per cent will be connected via satellite services.

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