Spark NZ has been granted consent subject to conditions to erect and operate a telecommunications facility, despite the multiple concerns raised during a Queenstown Lake District Council hearing last month.
The site is on the road reserve adjacent to Lake Hawea’s Peter Fraser Park (PFP) and the mast, which exceeds the permitted height and width under the National Environmental Standards for Telecommunication Facilities, is set to replace an existing seven-metre-high lighting pole at the same position.
QLDC has stated that the visual impact of the proposed mast was the central issue in this case and heard from three experienced landscape architects.
Shannon Bray, principal landscape architect of Wayfinder Landscape Planning and Strategy, who appeared for Spark at the hearing, said, “The mast will be seen as another element of the foreground urban landscape, in the background mountain ranges will remain dominant features.”
Consultant landscape architect for Hawea Community Association Inc Anne Stevens said, “Whilst the mast is not placed on a skyline or prominent ridgeline, in a number of different views it bisects the backdrop of mountain range and punches through the skyline...”
To minimise the mast’s visual impact, the conditions of consent of Spark’s application include painting the pole and cabinet in grey, leaving the retaining wall of unpainted concrete wall to weather naturally and only installing ‘see-through’ fences above this retaining wall.
Other concerns expressed at the hearing surrounded the provision of 5G technology, Radio Frequency Exposure Standards and the potential hazard the mast could pose to helicopters using PFP in emergencies.
Spark’s senior environmental planner Fiona Matthews explained that the proposed mast was for the provision of 3G and 4G mobile technology and, that while 5G technology was intended to be introduced by Spark by July 2020, this technology would notbe able to make use of the proposed mast.
When asked to comment on ‘5G hype vs reality,' professor of health psychology at the University of Auckland Keith Petrie said, “The majority of studies show that there is no relationship between weak electromagnetic field exposure and symptoms or health. Some people report that they are sensitive to the electromagnetic fields used in mobile phone and WiFi. Studies show that such people do experience symptoms, but only when they know they are being exposed. In double-blind conditions where they are exposed without knowing whether the electromagnetic field is on or off, no reliable effects are apparent.”
Spark’s lead radio frequency engineer Stephen Holding said Spark’s proposed mast employed low-power transmitting equipment, mounted high above ground level, and that the maximum public exposure at ground level would only be 7.37 percent of the level required under the NZ Standard.
In regards to the existing mast at Timaru Creek, Holding observed that a mast offering low coverage will reduce data speed and the quality of voice calls, therefore requiring more capacity to maintain a given level of service.
Inquires to Civil Aviation revealed that as the park was not recognised as a heliport, the safety of an approach was a matter for the pilot to determine.
Chair of Hawea Community Association Inc April Mackenzie has told theWanaka Sun, “We are speaking with our legal advisers to understand the appeal process to the environment court.”