Harkaway residents have established a campaign opposing the proposed construction of a 50-metre high National Broadband Network tower in a Harkaway Green Wedge Zone.
The proposed site for the tower – equivalent to 17-storeys in height – at 380 to 386 Harkaway Road would service about 250 households; mainly Narre Warren East and the northern fringe of Harkaway.
While unopposed to the NBN, campaign organiser Katie Vassiliou said that high landscape value areas like Melbourne’s rural-urban green wedge must be protected and preserved.
Ms Vassiliou has already garnered the support of more than 100 signatories on Change.org and described the proposed site as an “idyllic hamlet” of Melbourne’s outer south-east.
“Local residents are outraged and are calling on the council and local members to swiftly reject any proposal to construct such a monstrous tower where it is clearly out of context in the local area,” she said.
“A structure of this height would be a confronting sight anywhere, but placing it in such a prominent point would desecrate the entire area surrounding the principal route running through Casey’s Foothills to the Dandenong Ranges.
“The location has been recognised in the City of Casey Council’s landscape assessment studies as being of high visual exposure where any development should be avoided. A structure like this tower would be a dominant, ugly feature in the landscape that would completely destroy its scenic attributes, all for the sake of a service that will only benefit a handful of households in Harkaway’s northern fringe.
“It contravenes the local and state Green Wedge policies to protect, conserve and enhance the scenic landscape of the area.”
Ms Vassiliou said residents were also concerned that an NBN tower in that area may set a precedent for future developments of this type.
“An alternative should be considered,” Ms Vassiliou said.
“The NBN has made a commitment to looking to install fixed wireless facilities where there is already existing infrastructure. This avenue needs to be explored further. A less sensitive location is by far a better option. Or alternatively, the cabling should go underground as it was originally intended.
“For the tower to work, it needs to have clear lines of sight, which may result in trees being destroyed to ensure its effectiveness. It may also have a detrimental effect on land values in the area.”
VisionStream documents revealed that three other sites were investigated including the Narre Warren East Recreation Reserve Telstra facility, a Greenfield site beside the Narre Warren East Recreation Reserve Telstra facility and 460 Berwick Road, Narre Warren East.
These sites were discarded due to topographic constraints on potential coverage and being denied tenure.
National Broadband Network Victorian spokesperson Michael Moore welcomed feedback on the proposal and recommendations on any alternative sites.
“In designing the NBN network, we determined that our Fixed Wireless technology is the most suitable for this area,” he said.
“Fixed Wireless technology requires the construction of towers to deliver fast broadband to homes and businesses. The proposed tower in Harkaway Road would deliver a direct service to about 240 properties.
“In assessing sites for this tower, we took into consideration the planning controls in the Casey Planning Scheme and its local policy relating to telecommunications.
“While this is our preferred site for the tower, we have not yet submitted a council planning permit application.”
At a community information session held last week, 28 feedback forms were received: 10 of which were positive, five were neutral and 13 were negative.
City of Casey Four Oaks Ward councillors Rafal Kaplon and Rosalie Crestani attended the consultation session.
“Attendees confirmed a definite need for improved internet services in the area, however, some opponents want a less visually intrusive solution and an alternate site location away from their homes,“ Mr Moore said.
He said NBN was in the very early stages of looking for a suitable location for a second tower about two kilometres south of the proposed tower in Harkaway that is to service Narre Warren East.
The second tower would service a different area and would be located closer to the Harkaway township.
Cr Kaplon said council was not aware of a second proposed tower until the community information session last Wednesday.
“Council has not yet received a planning application for either tower,” Cr Kaplon said.
“Unfortunately, this technology of a Fixed Wireless network has to be implemented in a way that allows a clear line of sight between towers. So not only are these structures 50 metres tall, they also have to be placed on particularly elevated land.
“Should a planning application come to council, I want residents to be assured that it will be assessed against the full planning scheme. It’s important that all policies are applied. This will leave the process open to residents to lodge objections.
“The only setback for residents is that should council decide to refuse the planning permit, NBN can go to VCAT and they are prone to overturning council decisions.
“I would urge residents to hold off on lodging objections until a planning application is received.”
Originally published at Pakenham Gazette.