By DAVE BURGESS - The Dominion Post
Wednesday, 26 November 2008
Public anger over a proliferation of cellphone towers and broadband cabinets has prompted Wellington City Council to look at tightening controls on communication companies.
Council planners have received applications covering more than 170 sites from telecommunication companies this year. They include more than 100 roadside cabinets, each the size of a large fridge, to be installed in Wellington as part of Telecom’s "cabinetisation" programme for faster broadband. Also included are 70 applications from NZ Communications, which is establishing a national mobile network. Complaints from residents and business owners over the proliferation of towers and cabinets prompted Mayor Kerry Prendergast to seek a review of the council’s district plan rules.
The rules allow almost all telecommunication installations on council-owned reserve land, and on land next to roads, to proceed unhindered.
Ms Prendergast said the recent installation of two separate towers by Vodafone and NZ Communications in Churton Park had angered residents and sparked the review.
"Residents are annoyed that the telecommunications companies are siting new infrastructure on reserve land, or on a roadside, and the council can’t stop them doing so."
She said people were especially concerned at the height of some cellphone towers, and an apparent reluctance of companies to share the same tower for their equipment.
"Telecommunications equipment is essential to our collective welfare and to keeping Wellington an internationally competitive capital city.
"However, the installation of this infrastructure should be balanced against the wishes of residents not to have their views, and enjoyment of life, compromised."
Churton Park resident Malcolm Weight said there was concern in the community about the visual impact of the towers, and whether prolonged exposure to tower emissions could make people ill.
"What I think should change is that these companies should have to apply for resource consent in the usual way so people can send in submissions and voice their concerns to the council."
The review would include an investigation into how the council could effectively use the new National Environmental Standards, introduced by the Government last month.
Though the standards set limits on the height and size of telecommunication masts and antennas and cabinets, , council officers are uncertain how to police them.
Telecom spokesman Ian Bonnar said the telecommunications company had always worked in line with national guidelines and local council district plans.
"Generally the National Environmental Standards provide technical specifications for the infrastructure, and it is the district plan that determines the location." He said Telecom would discuss the planned rule changes if invited by the council.