Controversial 4G tower at Havelock North “will have to be torn down”

The installation only took a morning, but opponents of Havelock North are still hoping to have a new 4G mobile phone tower dismantled.

Stephen Fookes has been trying for almost three years to stop the Spark cell phone tower from going up outside his home. But last week, work resumed and on Tuesday afternoon he was planted a few feet from his living room.

The debate with Spark exhausted him so much that his Australia-based son Tim Fookes spoke on his father’s behalf. Tim Fookes is filing complaints with Spark and Hastings District Council.

“My end goal is that the tower will have to be brought down and the power box will have to be removed,” said Tim Fookes.

READ MORE:
* Resumption of construction of a controversial 4G cell phone tower in Havelock North
* Residents of Havelock North will not back down after controversial 4G mobile tower construction to move forward
* Havelock North cell phone tower remains in place two years later; residents want council to find an alternative site
* Negotiations on the site of the mobile telephone tower in Havelock North lead to an impasse

Spark's 4G cell phone tower was finally installed on Tuesday afternoon, right outside the home of resident Stephen Fookes.

Provided

Spark’s 4G cell phone tower was finally installed on Tuesday afternoon, right outside the home of resident Stephen Fookes.

Stephen and Gillian Fookes bought their home on the corner of Durham Ave and Te Mata Rd just before construction on the tower began, but Stephen said they had no idea the work was going to take place.

The house was supposed to be their retirement retreat, but this time was rather spent trying to understand the laws and government regulations regarding the location of cell phone towers.

Stephen Fookes described the communication around the tower as “a complete mess from start to finish.”

“I have worked in the corporate world most of my life and have never seen anything like it before,” he said.

The Spark 4G cell phone tower lying in the back of a truck Tuesday morning.

Georgia-May Gilbertson / Stuff

The Spark 4G cell phone tower lying in the back of a truck Tuesday morning.

Spark researched alternative locations, but found the corner of Durham Ave and Te Mata Rd to be the best place.

Spokesman Sam Smith said the new service would be available to customers by the weekend after the electricity was installed and testing was completed.

“For Spark customers, this means that the connectivity issues they are currently experiencing, such as dropped mobile calls, will no longer be an issue. And those who use the mobile network for home broadband should be able to stream content and video conferencing without a hitch.

Stephen Fookes was standing outside his house in 2019 when Spark began construction on the cell phone tower.

Marty Sharpe / Stuff

Stephen Fookes was standing outside his house in 2019 when Spark began construction on the cell phone tower.

“We regret that we were not able to please everyone with this decision, but we believe that we have done everything possible to try to do so, and we have made the decision to proceed with the construction according to the needs of the community more widely.”

But Tim Fookes is adamant the fight against the tower is not over.

“It can happen anywhere. No one has the time or the understanding to try to craft all of these rules and regulations. I think they (Spark and the board) both thought this process would be swept under the rug, ”he said.

“This is just the beginning – their own taxpayers are terribly upset by this whole ordeal. Anyone could end up with a tower outside their home.

Tim Fookes, son of Stephen and Gillian Fookes, followed the saga of Australia's Spark cell towers.

Provided

Tim Fookes, son of Stephen and Gillian Fookes, followed the saga of Australia’s Spark cell towers.

The construction of cell phone towers falls under the National Environmental Resource Management Standard for Telecommunications Facilities 2016 (NESTF). The rules allow network operators to install telecommunications equipment without the need to seek consent from resources, as long as specified standards are met.

If a telecommunications company requests to build a cell phone tower on communal land that meets all NESTF requirements, boards were required to issue a certificate of compliance under the law.

Christchurch-based independent researcher Susan Turnbull was assisting the Havelock North group.

She said there was no rule in the NESTF on how far a cell tower must be moved away from a residential boundary or sensitive activity boundary.

Protest signs at the Te Mata Rd / Durham Ave 4G cell phone tower site in 2019 (file photo).

Marty Sharpe / Stuff

Protest signs at the Te Mata Rd / Durham Ave 4G cell phone tower site in 2019 (file photo).

Turnbull said a national public consultation took place in late 2015 and early 2016, when the standard was first revised.

“Some bidders, especially local district councils as well as individuals, specifically requested the clarification and adjustment of the separation distances of antennas from residences and institutions such as schools, childcare centers, hospitals, residential care for the elderly, ”she said.

Turnbull said that although these requests were noted, they were ignored and no explanation was written, except that they were “beyond the scope” of review.

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