RUMBLES of discontent are rising to a crescendo across South Gippsland as more and more communities express dissatisfaction with what they see as a flawed consultation process for the roll-out of the National Broadband Network.
Concerns have already been raised by Chris Richter and neighbours at Port Franklin (see Mirror 20/2/13) and by Peter and Michael Thomson at Fish Creek (Mirror 20/3/13).
The latest rumblings are down at Yanakie, where Grant Flather, Helen Wilkinson and most of their neighbours harbour doubts about how seriously their objections to a tower proposed for Shellcotts Road are being taken by the powers that be. They are not even sure who will have the final say as to where the tower goes – but they are fairly sure it won’t be the ratepayers.
The 30-metre monopole is set to bring high-speed broadband to Yanakie via fixed wireless network. Much of South Gippsland will get its high-speed broadband via fixed wireless or satellite networks. Larger centres, such as Leongatha, will be served by a fibre optic cable. More than sixteen poles will be constructed across the shire to bring a fixed wireless service to up to 500 premises at a time in communities such as Yanakie.
Grant Flather says he is all for faster broadband. He is currently frustrated by the slow service he gets. But he would like some say in where the tower goes.
When notice of the permit application for a pole at Shellcotts Road was given in the local press, Mr Flather and his wife Helen took the opportunity to examine the proposal at South Gippsland Shire Council offices and were appalled to find that it was very close to their home. They were particularly shocked to find no mention of their residence. Instead, one of the site plans incorrectly identified their house as a farm building.
Mr Flather said when he mentioned this to the shire’s planning officer, she said that she didn’t realise that there was someone living there!
Mr Flather and Ms Wilkinson sent in a submission, outlining their concerns. Prime among these is the visual impact of the tower. Mr Flather says that far from being “400 metres from the nearest residential property” the proposed site is only about 40 or 50 metres from his house. The tower will be clearly visible from the kitchen and living area of his house. “The proposed location appears to go against the Planning Considerations Principle 1, which states that where possible, towers should not be placed within the line of sight of existing residential areas,” notes Mr Flather in his submission.
He is concerned that the tower will stick out like a sore thumb in the landscape. The few straggly trees currently in the vicinity will not be much use as a screen, he says, particularly since most are weeds and are earmarked for removal.
The fact that the tower can be seen from all points of his small-acre property will have a detrimental effect, adds Mr Flather, on its value.
“With virtually no superannuation to speak of, we are relying on selling this property (which we have put hundreds of hours of back-breaking work into) for our eventual retirement. It seems incredibly unfair to have this tower imposed on us when we are surrounded by thousands of acres of farmland and commercial operations. Surely a more suitable site can be found which does not impact someone so directly.”
The views of Mr Flather and Ms Wilkinson are shared by several other Shellcotts Road residents.
“When the majority of landholders object, it’s sending a clear message,” Mr Flather maintains.
Because there are more than five objections, the matter will be brought before Council, but Mr Flather is not holding out much hope that it will make any difference, saying “It’s all a bit of a sham really.”
His disillusionment stems from the applicant’s apparent dismissal of two alternative sites initially considered for a tower to service the Yanakie area. Mr Flather would prefer the tower to be erected on the Prom Road site, “but our opinion doesn’t seem to count compared to others’,” he says bitterly. One of the reasons given for dismissal of the main road site for a tower was that it would have a “high visual impact on people entering the town”.
Mr Flather said this suggests that the planning authorities are more mindful of the effect of an unsightly tower on visitors to the district, or people passing through, than on the people who live with it every day.
Mr Flather was pleased to be given the chance to state his views in a submission to Council and he will continue to pursue his case by making a presentation to Council prior to the matter being raised at the Council meeting at the end of April.
However, like Chris Richter, Peter Thomson and Michael Thomson before him, he is far from confident that his views will be taken into account when the decision on where to locate Yanakie’s NBN tower is made.