The Mirror News

Compromise reached over NBN pole positions

ELEVENTH hour concessions from NBN Co appear to have allowed a compromise in the bitter battle over the positioning of telecommunications facilities at Fish Creek and Yanakie to deliver a fixed wireless service for the National Broadband Network.

The backdown, which came to light at a public presentation session to South Gippsland Shire Council last Wednesday, prompted Cr Andrew McEwen to exclaim: “I’m looking for a trifecta!” as he expressed the hope that a controversial pole at Port Franklin could also be relocated.

Fish Creek resident Michael Thomson endured many weeks of worry, during which he lobbied hard against the location of a 45-metre lattice tower just 65 metres from his Stewarts Road house [see Mirror 20/3/13]. Early last week he was informed by a representative of NBN sub-contractor Visionstream that a site 200 metres to the north – on the same landowner’s property – would be considered instead for the tower – and it will be a less obtrusive 40 metre monopole, at least partly screened by its location near a hay shed.

“I accept the new location,” said Mr Thomson. “But I still have many concerns about the process [of selecting NBN pole positions]. They were wrong, for instance, not to recognise my house, which I am currently living in from time to time while I renovate it, as a dwelling. They dismissed it as a derelict farm building and didn’t consult me.”

“It could have been so easily fixed if they came to me in the beginning. It should have been good news [that Fish Creek is to get high-speed broadband internet access] but instead we have been put through unnecessary worry.”

Mr Thomson added that he wished to thank South Gippsland Shire councillors Lorraine Brunt and Bob Newton for their work on his behalf.

He spoke to ‘The Mirror’ after attending an aborted public presentation to Council last Wednesday afternoon by Yanakie resident Grant Flather. Mr Flather was explaining his objections to a 30-metre high steel monopole proposed for the property next door to his in Shellcott Road, Yanakie. As reported in ‘The Mirror’ last month (27/3/13), the proposal has met with fierce opposition from Mr Flather and his wife Helen Wilkinson, who live only 40 or so metres from the proposed site. Several other neighbours are also against locating what they regard as an eyesore at that particular location. Mr Flather pointed out that the tower would be bang in the middle of the view from his livingroom window, and although he recognised no-one was entitled to a view, “as visual artists, view is everything”.

Mayor Kieran Kennedy intervened in Mr Flather’s presentation at this point, inviting the director of development services, Phil Stone, to deliver some good news. Mr Stone said that NBN Co had been asked to consider relocating the tower 30 metres further north. They had admitted erring in initially dismissing the Flather residence as an unoccupied farm building.

“That’s the minimum they could do to satisfy us. We’d rather it was further from our house, but at least we won’t be looking at it,” said a relieved Mr Flather.

He said later that the second site had been his suggestion – and he rather wished he had tried for a site even further away from his house, but at least it would be partly hidden by some trees and a shed. “So, in principle I support it. Now I’m wondering if one of the alternative sites originally considered would be out of the question. If the tower went on Yanakie rec reserve the community would benefit from the rent.”

Cr Newton and Cr Andrew McEwen said that they favoured relocating the Yanakie pole to the rec reserve so that the cash-strapped community could use the rent for maintaining the reserve.

Mr Flather thanked Cr McEwen for working on his behalf to get the pole moved – subject to the agreement of the neighbours – further from his house.

Cr McEwen remarked that there had been an “abysmal failure of community consultation” and he will endeavour to have the pole moved to the Yanakie rec reserve, so that the community could derive benefit from the $8000 annual rent.

It was not until Wednesday evening that discussion of the NBN tower proposed for Port Franklin arose. Largely on the grounds of its visual impact and its proximity to their home, Ailsa and Chris Richter argued the case for relocating the pole proposed for Mattsons Road to one of the alternative sites originally considered by NBN Co, in Lawrence Road. Mrs Richter also expressed concerns about the health implications of living near a telecommunications facility. She said that she understood that NBN towers were not allowed to be built within 500 metres of primary schools which made her suppose they were not totally safe. She added that although her house was 650 metres from the site proposed for the pole at Port Franklin, she and her husband had been notified about the proposal, which led her to think that the proponents realised the impact the pole would have.

Cr Mohya Davies suggested that Mr Stone get his planning department to ask NBN Co why the Mattsons Road site was favoured over the Lawrence Road site, and he promised to do so.

Cr McEwen suggested that if Mr Stone were to indicate opposition to the proposed site the proponents might be persuaded to move this pole, too – and he would get his trifecta!


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