15 July 2019
Waipa District Council is supporting Pirongia locals in urging Spark to consider other locations for a new cell-phone tower it plans to build in the village.
And it has formally asked Spark to put its plans on hold until a potential new location is found.
Spark wants to put a new 20-metre high tower on privately-owned commercial land currently leased by a separate business. Under national regulations for telecommunications facilities introduced in 2016, and Waipā’s district plan, the tower does not need a resource consent from Council.
Council’s group manager – district growth and regulatory Wayne Allan said as long as the cell-phone tower met national standards and district plan restrictions around height and other issues, there was little Council could do. Council’s hands were legally tied, he said.
“We have seen exactly the same issue play out elsewhere, including in Cambridge when a cell-phone tower went up on Council road reserve directly outside homes. There was nothing Council or residents could do, although we did ask Spark to reconsider that location by providing alternative sites. They declined to do so,” he said.
“Similar issues have popped up recently in Tirau and Tairua so it’s an issue other communities are also grappling with. It’s going to come up more and more as the demand for cell-phone services increases.”
National regulations mean that as long as standards are met, cell-phone towers can be built on council road reserves as of right. Cell-phone towers can also be built on private land as long as the land owner agrees and the District Plan is complied with.
“This is what’s happened in Pirongia; the planned tower is going on private property because the landowner has agreed to it. Apart from restricting things like height, Council can’t do much about it.”
Council has engaged a specialist planner to work alongside Pirongia residents and Spark to identify alternative sites for consideration. It has asked Spark to put the tower build on hold until alternative sites can be considered.
“We know some Pirongia locals don’t want the tower in that location, or even at all. Others support the tower because they want better cell-phone coverage and faster internet. Council staff are not taking a position either way, that’s not our role,” Allan said.
“Given the tower has not yet been built, we’re simply offering to help the community and Spark to identify alternative sites so they can be considered. At the end of the day, Spark will make the decision.”