A SERIES of communication towers as tall as 40 metres high to deliver fixed wireless internet service will soon sprout up on as many as 10 high points around the Narooma district.
The organisation charged with providing broadband internet service to Australia NBN Co is proposing to build multiple telecommunication towers across the Narooma Bermagui area.
The fixed wireless towers are proposed at sites at Central Tilba, Wallaga Lake, Akolele, Tilba, Narooma including Nangudga Lake and Wonga Road, Coolagolite, Mystery Bay, Cobargo and possibly others.
Residents living next to the proposed towers at Tilba, Bermagui and at Wonga Road, Narooma and possibly other sites are concerned about the potential impacts of radiation, the aesthetic impact and also any clearing of bush to make way for the infrastructure.
There have been criticism of the way NBN Co has advertised and notified residents of information sessions, with the Bermagui session taking place on Monday and the Narooma session yesterday.
Another is planned for Tilba on Wednesday, August 27 at the Small Hall from 3pm to 6pm, but in each case only neighbours living in the vicinity of these towers were notified of these information sessions.
Anyone concerned about these towers can however attend and quiz the NBN personnel, and additional information sessions should be scheduled for residents in the vicinity of the other towers.
However while one public notice of the Wonga Road proposal appeared in the Narooma News, so far none of the others have.
While some of the proposed towers such as the Tilba and Bermagui required Development Approval from local councils, others such as the Wonga Road tower were complying developments.
A NBN Co spokesperson said no final decision had been made on the locations of the towers that required DA’s such as Tilba and any ideas for better locations would be listened to at the information sessions.
The height of the towers was determined by the topography or lay of the land, as the internet signal required line-of-sight to the user.
The towers or “mono-poles” would be topped with three panel antennas and a single parabolic dish and would also need to be connected to the power grid for cooling fans and other equipment.
Tilba residents concerned
Central Tilba residents opposed to the proposed NBN tower at “The Old Abattoir” property on the Punkalla-Tilba Road already have more than 400 signatures on a petition they plan to present to Eurobodalla Shire Council.
Unlike many of the other proposed tower loations, council approval is needed as the proposed Tilba tower is located within a designated heritage area.
Residents say they are opposed to the location for the 40-metre or 10-storey high wireless internet tower and associated infrastructure on a prominent hilltop within the Tilba Landscape Conservation Area.
They say the site is highly visible from many of the district's vantage points including major areas of the Central Tilba town site, from where it forms a critical part of the northern horizon.
The tower is a mere 115 metres from the property of Lyndall Magnusseson while her neighbours also oppose the tower’s location.
Magnusseson and her neighbours Keith Morgan, Barbara Kerslake and Jason Meale have spent countless hours researching the proposal.
They do not deny improved broadband service is needed but say not at the expense of the compromising the town’s beauty, potentially impacting on their health and land values.
They say the towers would deliver a second-rate service to local business and home, not comparable to fibre optic cabling.
Federal Member Peter Hendy meanwhile visited the proposed Tilba tower location and met with concerned residents on Friday.
Residents said Hendy promised to take their concerns to NBN Co while they also plan to attend the meeting planned for August 27 at the Tilba Small Hall and encourage others to do so too.
Dr Hendy on Friday afternoon, only a few days before the actual sessions thereby not giving the general public much notice, issued a press release urging residents to attend the Narooma and Bermagui sessions and meet with NBN Co representatives.
“The Coalition Government is committed to delivering broadband sooner, at less cost to the taxpayers, and more affordable for consumers,” he said.
“The Government recently undertook the Broadband Availability and Quality: Summary Report, which found that there are more than 1.6 million premises across Australia with very poor or no fixed broadband access at all.
With this in mind, the Coalition Government has instructed the NBN Co to ensure that the worst served areas in Australia are prioritised in the NBN rollout.
On average, areas with very poor broadband will receive upgrades two years sooner.
“NBN Co is expected to publish an updated Corporate Plan and rollout schedule later this year and further information will be made publically on the NBN Co website: www.nbnco.com.au”
The Tilba Chamber of Commerce meanwhile has been exploring over the past month in trying to have the tower positioned at Brushgrove Lane at the location where Telstra had been investigating as a site for a mobile phone tower.
Bermagui NBN tower causes concern
THE Bermagui NBN tower like the all the others is proposed for high ground.
Residents attending Monday’s information session said a DA had been lodged with council to erect the 40-metre tower in the State Forest off Alexander Drive.
Resident Gretel Bodiam-Oldfield said was a forested area that is home to numerous residences, tourism businesses, a cafe, Band Bs, holiday rentals and bush walking area.
Apparently given the height of trees in the pegged out location it is assumed that approximately 10 metres will extend above current tree tops.
“Of course this can change at any time based on whatever tree removal or logging is undertaken,” she said.
“A chain fence of 2.4 metres will be constructed around it and there is talk of overhead power lines, but this was not clear.”
Alternate sites were identified by residents at the information session, including at the council industrial area adjacent to the town landfill.
Bodiam-Oldfield said this would be ideal for the location of the tower and would seem to be the most sensible way forward.
“Yet this is not being put forward as the proposed site,” she said.
“Communication has been almost non-existent and very poorly executed. It would appear few if any major stakeholders have been contacted including the Bermagui Chamber of Commerce.
“Apparently there was a mass mail out to properties within 1km of the proposed Alexander site. However given the uniqueness of this particular area, there is limited or no mail service, to this area. No other efforts were made to directly contact affected residences.”
Mobile coverage co-location
WHILE the NBN towers are being built for fixed wireless internet service, there already is discussion of co-locating mobile telephone equipment on the towers.
Telstra area general manager Larissa Redford said regarding fixed wireless NBN co-deployment in the area, Telstra looks at all available options for co-locating when we are seeking to deploy a new site in an area and that includes NBN sites.
Telstra meanwhile is doing broadband upgrades of its own and is pleased to confirm that they have recently completed an infrastructure upgrade to improve the ADSL performance for customers in parts of North Narooma and Kianga.
“This is just part of an ongoing commitment to continue enhancing services in the region and next month we will also be looking to increase the number of ports available to customers in the area.
Very patchy mobile coverage is also an issue in local areas, particularly in the Tilba area with Telstra at one point investigating and then abandoning plans for its own telecommunication tower at Brushgrove Lane due to residents’ opposition.
NBN Co says there was scope for mobile phone telecommunication companies to co-locate their own equipment on the internet towers, thereby also improving mobile service.
While NBN Co has indicating its fixed wireless signals put out very low levels of radiation, the mobile equipment could put out much stronger electromagnetic energy, thereby adding to the concerns of residents living adjacent.