24 July 2019
Vodafone wants to renew its lease to operate cell phone telecommunications equipment from the Te Awamutu water reservoir.
Vodafone has operated equipment from the Greenhill Drive site since 1994, complying with all requirements. In early 2014, Council granted the company a further five-year lease but, in response to community feedback, directed that nearby residents be advised next time the lease came up for renewal. 2degrees also operates equipment from the site.
Today Council advised nearby residents of Vodafone’s request for a lease renewal and also of changes to regulations around cell-phone towers. In a letter to residents, Council’s group manager – district growth and regulatory services Wayne Allan confirmed that, since the lease was last renewed, the law has changed.
He noted that in 2016, the government amended the National Environmental Standards for Telecommunications (commonly known as NES) and increased the range of telecommunications facilities that do not require a resource consent.
That means cellphone towers can now be located on Council road reserves as of right if they comply with the NES standards. They can also be built on private land, if the landowner agrees and the District Plan is complied with.
Allan said staff favoured the Vodafone lease being renewed. If not, Vodafone had already confirmed at least two cell-phone towers would be built nearby to service the local community. Council would have no say about where those towers might be located, including on public roads as part of power poles, he said.
“Really, our hands are tied. If Vodafone is forced to build two cell-phone towers because the lease is not renewed, they could pop up anywhere next to houses on nearby road reserve and there’s very little Council could do about it.”
“As staff, we think it’s better for Vodafone’s equipment to stay where it’s been since 1994 so there’s no need for new cell-phone towers at all. But it’s not up to staff. The decision on whether or not to renew the Vodafone lease will be made by Councillors.”
Nearby residents have been invited to share their views on the lease renewal with Council prior to any decision being made. Council will also be seeking confirmation from an independent expert to ensure emission standards are being complied with before the lease decision is made.
Elected members will make the decision at a Council Committee meeting next month.
For more information, contact: Jeanette Tyrrell 027 5077 599