• 25 MAY 05
    • 0

    More mobile phone towers planned for Sydney

    The Sydney Daily Telegraph

    More mobile phone towers planned

    May 25, 2005

    NEW mobile phone base stations to be built across Sydney will be targeted by a growing number of community protest groups.

    An investigation by The Daily Telegraph has uncovered dozens of proposed new mobile base stations to be built across Sydney.
    It follows recent protests by community action groups against a Telstra mobile tower to be built in Norton St at Leichhardt, which residents claim could affect several nearby schools.

    Protest groups concerned about radiation levels claim telcos try to conceal the installation of new equipment. Councils do not have to be consulted if the base station is classified as being “low impact”, the groups said yesterday.

    Telcos must only detail proposed new base stations or upgrades to existing equipment in a newspaper’s public notice section.

    Every week, protest groups such as Tower Sanity Alliance scour metropolitan and local newspapers to find out if base stations are being built or upgraded. Tower Sanity spokeswoman Anne Wagstaff said it was difficult for individuals to obtain information about planned locations of new base stations. “If you are an individual wanting the locations of new base stations and you don’t live in the area, you have no choice but to look in the public notices of the local newspapers to find where they’re planning to put them,” Ms Wagstaff said.

    Not even the Australian Communications Authority knows where new base stations will be built or upgraded. A spokesman said telcos only advise the ACA when the new equipment is operating. Environmental assessments of electromagnetic energy emissions are also given to the ACA.

    A Botany Council spokesman told The Daily Telegraph local government could not stop telcos from building low-impact towers. “[Telcos] don’t have to get approval from any council for low-impact towers, they advise council they are going to do this work and that is it,” the spokesman said. “As long as they class it under the Telecommunications Act, they can do it.” But the spokesman said a Code of Practice usually ensured the towers were kept away from schools.

    Schedule 3 of the Telecommunications Act 1997 gives carriers immunity to allow them to install specified types of facilities, including base stations, without seeking state, territory or local government approval. “The ACA does not have the power to determine whether or not a particular facility is low impact, or direct a carrier to co-locate a facility,” the ACA website states. A Telstra spokesman said the company would not disclose the location of new base stations. “Telstra and Hutchinson are building just 350 sites across Australia for the 3G network this year, and half of them will be on existing facilities,” the spokesman said. “Only a very small proportion of these new base stations are in the Sydney basin, about 25.” He said Telstra always notified the local community by advertising in local press, writing to residents, consulting with councils and “sensitive sites” such as schools when building base stations.

    Vodafone and Optus are also sharing base station technology. “Optus will continue to invest in new base stations to bring customers even better coverage,” an Optus spokeswoman said. “In choosing sites for mobile base stations, Optus works hard to strike a balance between the customer demand for improved mobile coverage in an area and the preferences of individual residents.” Of the major telcos, only Optus lists where it has recently installed mobile phone base stations and potential sites.

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