By Natalie Brown and Kerry Brown
The response to our previous article about the proposed NBN Co towers which are planned for the Sunshine Coast hinterland area has been overwhelming – proving that local residents want information regarding the towers. Residents expressed gratitude for a newspaper article that presented the facts. Among those who contacted the Sunshine Valley Gazette were members of the Witta NBN Tower group who have gathered more than 300 pages of information relating to the risks associated, both to landowners and residents. The Sunshine Valley Gazette has been provided with a copy of this information from the Witta NBN Tower Group.
Witta resident Stephen Alexander is the spokesperson for the group. He explained their position to the Gazette. “Upon hearing the NBN had contacted local landowners to erect a microwave and WiFi tower within close proximity to homes, we set about discovering why our government had reneged on its election promises,” said Witta resident, Stephen Alexander. “We also wanted to know if the combined radiation from the transmitters on the tower held any meaningful health risk.”
Based on the information they gathered, Mr Alexander says the Witta NBN Tower group recently served formal legal notices to local MP Mal Brough with copies of the evidence. A Spokesperson from MP Mal Brough’s office said a letter had been delivered to the office from a Witta resident.
Mr Alexander said residents’ main concerns were health risks associated with the proposed wireless towers and the speed and reliability of the service, as well as the economic risks to landowners. He said evidence they have gathered present some alarming facts relating to these concerns.
The group say the ARPANSA ‘Fact Sheet 10’ (made available at the NBN Co community consultation meeting on September 17) states the maximum exposure levels to radiofrequency fields may be exceeded immediately surrounding the tower . It continues on to say that ‘there are no established health effects from these very low levels of RF EMR’. Mr Alexander said the group also looked at Bioinitiative 2012 Report, compiled by Dr. Ronald M. Powell, based on the findings of 67 independent studies conducted between 1974 and 2012, and concluded there is serious concern with the link between serious health risks and high levels of radiofrequency exposure.
According to the report, biological risks can include reproduction/fertility effects, oxidative damage, DNA damage, DNA repair failure, cancer, cell proliferation (cells changing shape), brain tumours and disruption of the blood brain barrier, stress proteins, HSP and disrupted immune function. Alarmingly, the report also presents “evidence that unborn and very young children may be more greatly affected by RF radiation than adults because unborn and very young children are in ‘critical phases of growth and development”.
NBN Co media relations officer Mr Grant Thomas said NBN Co adheres to the safety standards set by Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA). We take safety very seriously and assure residents our fixed wireless technology is safe for both humans and local wildlife because it operates well within the scientifically mandated safety standards. He went on to say as NBN Co is not a public health authority, residents concerned about the national radiofrequency electromagnetic energy safety standards should contact ARPANSA on 1800 022 333.
In response, the Witta NBN Tower Group said Senator Scott Ludlam asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health a question relating to new information provided by the World Health Organisation (WHO). “Given that on May 31, 2011 the World Health Organisation’s International Agency for Research on Cancer classified radiofrequency electromagnetic fields as a Group 2B carcinogen, and the inability of the Australian telecommunication industry to obtain public liability insurance for potential health effects of electromagnetic radiation (EMR), what financial provision is the Australian Government making to cover future public liability claims and health costs for Australians for illnesses caused by EMR?”
The response from Senator Ludwig was as follows: “In Australia, although there are no precautionary limits per se, the ARPANSA exposure standard requires a minimisation of public radiofrequency fields exposure “…which is unnecessary or incidental to achievement of service objectives or process requirements, provided this can be readily achieved at reasonable expense.” The Witta NBN Tower Group say this means the Australian Government is making no provisions for public liability and an example of this is landowners are advised by NBN Co to consult with their own insurance companies with regard to public liability insurance.
Mr Alexander explained many residents are concerned the health risks associated with the towers are being handled in the same way that asbestos concerns were disregarded more than 30 years ago. “We identified many comparisons with the way in which both industry and governments dealt with the documented evidence of clinical harm from asbestos, that existed for over 30 years before the health and safety standards were adjusted accordingly,” said Mr Alexander. “This is based on the manner in which both the NBN and our government are justifying the introduction of a known cancer risk into our communities today.”
One of the attractions for local residents with the wireless network the NBN Co are proposing is the promise of greater speed and reliability for users. The Witta NBN Tower Group say evidence suggests that the wireless service that will be replacing the current broadband network is inferior to what we have now, and no other country in the world is replacing the current fibre network for a wireless one. “What was more surprising was the towers that are currently being rolled out are substandard to the fibre to the node and copper to the home that our government has promised us at the election,” said Mr Alexander.
In response Mr Thomas said our instructions from the Government are to provide download rates of 25 megabits per second to all premises as soon as possible. The goal of the National Broadband Network (NBN) is to bring better broadband to Australians including residents of rural and regional surrounds of Maleny. Every community is important but due to the nature and size of our country the NBN is being rolled out in stages using a mix of technologies. By embracing a broader mix of technologies, we aim to provide the NBN to people faster and at less cost to taxpayers.
The Witta NBN Tower Group caution landowners about signing a contract with NBN Co you allow the company to dictate the conditions for the future sale of your property. The group say this situation was apparently experienced by the Gray family of Woombah in NSW. The NBN Caveat on their property has meant that the family have been unable to sell the property following the death of the husband and father, Robert Arthur Gray, because of conditions imposed by NBN Co.
According to the Witta NBN Tower Group, a copy of an NBN Co contract shows the company includes provisions for modifying the tower – which paves the way for them to add additional 5G mobile phone network equipment. The group say that under conditions of use it states “NBN Co may at any time during the term, install, remove, modify, vary, maintain, use and operate on the premises such equipment as is necessary for the use permitted by this Lease now and in the future.”
The group say the information provided to the Gazette only touches on a few points of more than 300 pages they have gathered. Copies of this information and contact details for the group are available on their website www.nbntowers.com.
The NBN Co are holding a second round of community consultation meetings on Thursday, October 16th at the Maleny Community Centre from 1pm-2:30pm or 7pm-8:30pm.