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Residents will continue to fight cell tower proposal

The Wānaka App

Maddy Harker

01 May 2024, 5:06 PM

Residents will continue to fight cell tower proposalLake Hāwea.

The woman behind a petition to stop the approval of a cell tower in central Lake Hāwea says she is “gutted” to learn Queenstown Lakes District Council (QLDC) has given it the green light.

The council provided resource consent approval for the 12.5m high cell tower earlier this month, which applicants FortySouth and OneNZ said would provide “much needed improvements” as well as more capacity to meet growing demand for mobile services in Lake Hāwea.

Darlene Thomson lives about 20 metres from the future cell tower site and her petition to prevent it from being installed has close to 200 signatures.

She says she and some other members of the community have not stopped fighting. 

The Hāwea Community Association (HCA) chair Cherilyn Walthew is hoping to meet with mayor Glyn Lewers later this week to discuss the cell tower, and Darlene has asked for support from elected members, she said.

“Failing that I am certainly not opposed to chaining myself to the fence on the day they come to erect it and others have indicated they will join me,” she told the Wānaka App.

Darlene said the cell tower would obstruct her view of Mt Maude and cited “health reasons…., visual pollution and noise (in wind)” as other reasons she wanted it relocated.

In 2020 Spark withdrew its application for a 15m high cell tower in Hāwea’s Peter Fraser Park following opposition from the residents, the HCA, and a legal challenge in the Environment Court.

Darlene said she was disappointed not to have the opportunity to formally oppose this latest cell tower application and she said hers was the only household to be formally advised of the proposal.

Her primary issue is the cell tower’s location: “There are so, so many other places it could go and not affect so many people,” she said.

FortySouth said it had identified and ruled out a range of other sites, some because of lakefront and residential development underway, one because it was “very close” to Spark’s failed site, and another, Mt Maude, because the company was unable to secure a lease. 

“We acknowledge that some people do not want cell sites located near houses and away up on hills and out of sight, but new technology means the infrastructure now needs to be closer to users and in Lake Hawea’s case, the existing cell site coverage is also reaching its capacity,” FortySouth said in a statement shared with community members by councillor Cody Tucker.

In QLDC’s summary of decisions on the application, a senior planner said the potential adverse visual and overshadowing effects on the environment were no more than minor, and said the same for the potential adverse effects on people.

The facility will be operated in accordance with radiofrequency fields exposure levels regulations, they said.

The HCA and Queenstown Lakes District Council were approached for comment.

PHOTO: Supplied