Tension is building between NBN Co and rural communities with reports emerging that the company rolling the national broadband network has bypassed council approvals in a bid to accelerate the construction of its new wireless towers in regional New South Wales
According to The Australian Financial Review, two NBN Co contractors, Visionstream and Ericsson, are using state guidelines to veto a consultation process with the locals in the northern coastal region of NSW.
As previously seen with residents around the Golden Plains region in Victoria last year, locals in the areas surrounding Lismore, Clarence Valley and Nimbin have expressed concerns with location and the visual impact of NBN Co’s proposed fixed wireless towers.
Residents also say they are worried about the potential health risk posed by the towers. Though, the validity of these claims is yet to be empirically tested.
Typically, these concerns are expressed to NBN Co though the local council, however, NSW state guidelines have cut this group out of the discussion as they allow mobile carriers to construct towers that are shorter than 50 meters and located more than 150 meters away from property without any council consultation.
A NBN Co spokeswomen has defended the process, saying its level of local consultation “exceeds what is required”. However, locals are still reeling from the manner in which NBN Co and its contractors are engaging with them.
Lismore councillor, Vanessa Elkins told that AFR that NBN Co and Visionstream would only talk after landowners had signed an agreement around the installation the towers.
“You need to be talking to communities first and asking them where they think a potential site is before you start locking in land-holders to agreements,” she said.
Complications with locals may slow down the rollout, but if last year’s Golden Plains’ wireless tower saga is an example, NBN Co will ultimately come out on top.
Victorian residents ended up taking the matter to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal, who ultimately quashed their claims and green lighted the construction of the regions’ wireless towers.