January 2019 | Sharon Webb
BLACKSTONE HEIGHTS residents were triumphant when Meander Valley Council rejected Telstra’s 25m proposed mobile phone tower but the decision means ratepayers could be landed with up to $10,000 in legal fees.
At the December council meeting, Cllr Andrew Connor warned councillors that should Telstra appeal the decision in Tasmania’s Resource Management and Planning Appeal Tribunal, the legal bill would drop in the council’s lap.
“RMPAT has only ever refused one tower. These things are rarely successful,” he said.
A Telstra spokesperson said the company was still considering whether to appeal the decision.
In a tense December meeting packed with objectors to the Zenith Court tower, councillors heard from residents who believe their property values will be negatively impacted, fear possible health effects from tower emissions (said to be unproven) and fear the effects on nesting eagles in the area.
More than 357 residents formally objected to the tower: 357 through a petition to the council and 30 more through letters of objection.
Petition signers were not just from Zenith Court and Blackstone Rd but from Canopus Drive, Bayview Drive, Glover Avenue, Panorama Rd and Longvista Rd and as far afield as Hadspen, Westbury, Rosevale, Hagley and Bracknell.
At the meeting Blackstone resident Steven McGhee offered to pay half the legal fees should Meander Valley Council be forced to fight a Telstra appeal in the RMPAT.
He also said the council had made no effort to investigate whether the tower was avoidable.
“Only 20 people will benefit from the tower, and near the West Tamar tower house prices have dropped.
“There has been no full and frank discussion from Telstra.”
But Telstra senior project specialist Katie Hill told the meeting Telstra had been contracted by the Federal Government to create optimum coverage for black spot areas.
“There were four other candidates for the tower but we found this site has optimum benefit for 3G Plus,” she said. “There will be a benefit for new residential areas coming through and new businesses.
“We heard the community angst in the [September] community information session and we’ve tried to be as transparent as possible.”
Clinton Northey from telecommunications provider Visionstream told councillors that from a planning perspective the Zenith Ct location belonging to Taswater was a utility zone needing no tree clearing.
“We feel the tower is not in anyone’s direct line of vision,” he said.
Other councillor comments included:
Cllr Susie Bower: “I find it difficult to believe a report could not be generated to show how many Telstra customers would benefit from this. More than 180 people expected to benefit do not want the tower.”
Cllr Michael Kelly: The tower will decrease the value of properties; I have to consider that.”
Cllr Frank Nott: “I have concerns about the tower’s height and the single 10-year lease is deceptive – a smokescreen. We need to take heed of the petitioners and letter writers, particularly those with young families. I am supporting the interests of the residents.”
Cllr Connor: “Put your hand up if your don’t have a mobile phone – very few. Councillors should use their heads not their hearts on this issue.”