Cell tower hearing concludes

Pictured: 13 people attended the hearing at Edgewater Resort this week.

The resource consent hearing for the proposed cell tower in Hawea took place over Tuesday-Wednesday this week with Spark and the Hawea Community Association going head-to-head on the placement of the proposed 16-metre mast. 

The mast is proposed on the Road reserve immediately adjacent Peter Fraser Park, 79 Capell Avenue and 28 Myra Street, Lake Hawea. Chair of the Hawea Community Association, April MacKenzie, said the main beef that HCA has with Spark, isn’t that extra cell coverage may be required for a burgeoning population; it is the placement of the tower in a location that obscures views and ruins the number one attraction of living in Hawea — the mountain and lake scapes. 

McKenzie and the commissioners Bob Nixon and David Whitney all expressed concern about what additional antenna will be added over time? “3G and 4G we know, but what will 5G kit look like?” asked commissioner Whitney. They also asked whether other service providers need their own towers or can they co-locate their antenna on this mast — to which Spark declined to answer directly, saying only that other providers will need to submit their own consent application. “Once council approves this mast, we are obliged to approve Vodafone and Two Degrees otherwise we would be accused of being anti-competitive,” said commissioner Nixon  

The lack of consultation between Spark and HCA has also driven a large part of the discontent. Spark had reportedly requested to insert some information into the monthly HCA newsletter. “We were specifically asked not to indicate to the community what sites were being considered – yet they had already made a resource application for a site. We naively went along with their suggestion because we thought that they were going to genuinely allow us to work with them to find suitable locations; once they shared with us what it was they were trying to achieve. That never happened,” said MacKenzie in her submission yesterday. 

“The current tower at Timaru Creek provides very good service to Hawea area; as demonstrated later in Mr Holden’s evidence. A similar tower out of the town; practically invisible could clearly meet the need that Spark says exists. But Spark would not share information or work with us,” she said. 

The HCA was keen to find alternative sites; “we were asked to give ideas and given about a week to do so; [but] we were not given any data or shown the red and blue circles [which demarcate frequency suitability].

“The analysis of other sites, such as the fire station, demonstrates a lack of understanding by Spark regarding the town and unwillingness to properly engage with the HCA. They would not send a team to visit sites with us nor would they provide us coverage and capacity data even though we asked for it. We have to conclude they did not test the alternative sites we suggested and they certainly were not willing to work with the HCA to search for sites,” said MacKenzie.

Spark said, “In the case of Hawea this work has been going on by a team of planners and Radio Frequency engineers for over six months trying to determine the best possible location for a new cell tower. Additionally, since January this year Spark has worked closely with the Hawea Community Association around HCA suggested sites, all of which have been assessed, scoped against community user needs and found to be unsuitable.”

Spark’s interpretation of “working closely” does not seem to align with HCA’s interpretation.


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