Kalamunda Shire phone towers top the agenda

MOBILE phone providers have targeted the Kalamunda Shire for new development applications this month, all near primary schools.

An application for a 40m Optus tower in Gooseberry Hill has concerned residents and parents of students at Gooseberry Hill Primary School.

A second application for a proposed telecommunications mast comprising a 50m-high lattice mast and ancillary components at 65 McCorkill Road in Pickering Brook has also been lodged.

McCorkill Road comprises orchards and homes and the Pickering Brook Primary School is on the corner of McCorkill and Pickering Brook roads.

Cr Tracy Destree has kept open the possibility for a phone tower in a nature reserve in Gooseberry Hill after a heated meeting at the Kalamunda Shire last Monday night.

She said the Optus proposal for a 40m tower in a nature reserve in Gooseberry Hill would ensure there was better access and deliver NBN commitments.

“It is known that many parts of the Shire that do not have mobile service are in critical and high risk fire zones,” she said.

Cr Destree said she wanted to allow Telstra, Optus and Vodafone to outline their expansion plans throughout the Shire to the chief executive.

At the council meeting, Pickering Brook resident Regina Eckhardt-Cheong, of McCorkill Road, said she was at a loss to understand why an NBN tower would be built in her street.

Council officers said the NBN application was open for public comment until March 14.

“I am very concerned about this being built on my doorstep,” Ms Eckhardt-Cheong said.

“It’s a 50m tower and there is an application for a fixed wireless tower from the contractors.”

Gooseberry Hill resident Emma Kallarn said Gooseberry Hill Primary School parents, children and staff were concerned an Optus tower could harm children’s health.

“If the Shire could implement a policy that phone towers do not belong in sensitive locations, we would be grateful as due diligence is needed to manage EMR emissions,” Ms Kallarn said.

In 2011, the council rejected an application for a phone tower proposed for Gooseberry Hill, 170m away from the primary school.

The WA Department of Education agreed that the proposed mobile tower was too close to the school.

Since then the Federal Governments NBN commitment have changed the legislation surrounding phone towers which means Optus has since confirmed the location for the tower is at Lot 622 Ledger Road, Gooseberry Hill.

Ms Kallarn, who represented the No To Tower group said the communications code sought an agreement from the phone providers they would communicate with the residents and other parties in a consultative approach.

Gooseberry Hill residents John and Sue Blair said they had worked with the friends of Ledger Road Reserve for 25 years as volunteers on the crown land to prevent Jarrah dieback being spread into the forest.

“Are the phone company workers going to dust their boots to stop the dieback? And wash down the car tyres on their vehicles? I doubt it,” Mrs Blair said.

Mrs Blair asked the council when a development application became a zone change.

“Since when did it become okay to put a phone tower in a water catchment area, a forest and among the wildlife?

“I don’t understand how the area can be zoned recreational and then be re-zoned industrial for the phone tower,” Mrs Blair said.

Council was unanimous on the vote to invite all the carriers to address council in lieu of Optus doing so separately over the Gooseberry Hill location.

Cr Simon Di Rosso said he was concerned that the motion mentioned all the carriers which diluted the issue for the Optus tower.