Telstra mobile tower stalled as TIO looms

Telstra's plan to build a mobile phone tower on a Leichhardt shopping centre is facing further delays as its dispute with the local community appears set to drag on.Telstra was due to begin construction of the towers in June but it was blocked when the owners of the shopping complex upon which the six antenna were to be built, the Medich Property Group, withdrew their permission to use the site in solidarity with local resident protest groups.

Telstra's plan to build a mobile phone tower on a Leichhardt shopping centre is facing further delays as its dispute with the local community appears set to drag on.

Telstra was due to begin construction of the towers in June but it was blocked when the owners of the shopping complex upon which the six antenna were to be built, the Medich Property Group, withdrew their permission to use the site in solidarity with local resident protest groups.

Telstra site acquisitions manager, Bob Joice, today revealed that it could take months to have the matter resolved by the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO).

Medich Property Group director, Anthony Medich, has since rejected Telstra's proposals to resolve the matter, forcing the carrier to direct it to the TIO in accordance with federal telecommunications legislation.

Joice today said the carrier could not set a date for construction of the tower until it had received directions from the regulator which has to enter a lengthy dispute resolution process, consulting with both parties before making its decision.

"The current situation is that we've got no plans as yet to build any installation and we're still reviewing our position," said Telstra spokesperson, Michael Patterson.

Telstra's plan to build the tower landed it in hot water with local residents concerned about possible health impacts associated with radio emissions from the equipment's antennas. During May the Leichhardt community held spirited public protests and demonstrations against the facility with the support from local government authorities.

Leichhardt Council alleged that Telstra sent a form-letter to residents falsely claiming that it had recieved the council's blessing for the antennas' construction, attracting the ire of the local Mayor Alice Murphy.

Resident action group leader and accomplished Australia Film and TV director, Ian Barry, last month characterised Telstra's early efforts to consult with the local community as "selective and covert".

Barry said most of the community's concerns about the tower were driven by its proximity to local schools 300 metres away from the proposed site.

Anthony Medich in May told a Leichhardt community paper that he stood to lose $20,000 per year in leasing fees if the tower didn't go ahead but that he would be unhappy if the carrier were to go against the community's wishes.

Telstra has called in experts from Australia's lead radiation standards authority ARPANSA to assure the community the antennas are safe. But resident action groups are anxious over recent studies that raise some doubts about the long term impact of exposure to 3G base-station emissions.

One resident told a local community paper that she didn't want to be "treated like a guinea pig".

Telstra today claimed that local ill-feeling toward the construction was being prompted by what it called "mobile phone activists" from outside the community. However, it refused to identify them.

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