• 10 JAN 08
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    #839: Australian college forces powerline removal from school grounds

    Gold Coast Sun (Australia)

    January 9, 2008 Wednesday

    Powerlines gone from Marymount But victory quite costly

    COLLEEN DAVIS

    Marymount College has won an 18-year battle to remove powerlines that bisect the school’s grounds. But it has come at a cost of $600,000 after the Gold Coast City Council reneged on a deal to pay one-third.

    Parents and Friends Association president Michael Pahoff said the school had raised about $150,000 and would borrow the rest over a 10-year period. He said parents had been determined to have the powerlines moved because they feared children exposed to electromagnetic fields could face an increased risk of developing some cancers, and they were worried large poles in the schoolgrounds could be a hazard. “There is some research out there that says the combination of EMFs and emissions from motor vehicles can have a magnified effect,” he said.

    Mr Pahoff, who retires as president this year after serving 18 years on the P&F committee, said he never thought in his wildest dreams it would take so long to move the powerlines. “There were times when they upgraded the road and I thought – what an opportunity to underground the powerlines at the same time.” “But you can’t get decisions out of bureaucracy – maybe it was a political football . . . or bomb,” he said.

    An Energex spokesman said it would take about 10 months to relocate overhead powerlines in the Burleigh Waters area, with a lead time of 12 months for final detailed design, approvals, and community consultation. He said moving the existing wires would be complex. “A new double-circuit high-voltage line will then be constructed along Reedy Creek Road, and once these are commissioned into service, the old network will be removed.” Energex will pay one-third of the $900,000 cost of the project in the Marymount College area. “The overall project will cost more than $2 million.”

    Mr Pahoff said it was unclear whether the school was built before or after the powerlines went in. “But if the powerline was there first, it was a very basic one for the township of Burleigh Heads,” he said. “My major concern would be they might upgrade it again into double its size. “There is an easement that bisects the campus.”

    School principal Bob Peacock said the work should be completed by the end of next year. “We are delighted this 18-year battle is finally over and so grateful to the hundreds of parents over the years who have worked so hard to achieve this outcome,” he wrote in the school’s newsletter. Mr Pahoff said the council had a prudent avoidance policy and would not allow people to build within 50m of powerlines. “If there is a school anywhere in a similar situation, for goodness sake, move those powerlines too,” he said.

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