Residents have raised concerns about the location of proposed 30-metre high National Broadband Network tower at Mt Camel.By Monique Preston
Toolleen and Mt Camel residents have voiced their disapproval at a mediation meeting for a proposed 30m National Broadband Network tower being built on the top of Mt Camel.
About 15 people attended a public meeting at Toolleen last Tuesday which was called by Campaspe Shire Council to bring together the applicants for the Gibb Rd tower and the objectors.
Telecommunications and ICT provider Visionstream had lodged a planning application with council for the lattice tower on behalf of Ericsson, which is contracted to provide the wireless network for NBN Co.
However, many residents in the area do not want it.
Campaspe Shire service executive manager Paul McKenzie said council had received five formal objections, a joint letter signed by 15 people and one letter of concern about the application for the tower.
At the meeting, Toolleen winemaker Andrew Millis, of Barnadown Run Winery, said the ‘‘iconic mountain’’ needed to be protected.
‘‘You don’t see the Yanks building towers on Mount Rushmore or the Japanese building a tower on Mount Fuji,’’ he said.
Mr Millis said the winegrowers of Heathcote had put the region’s wines on the international map and it would be a travesty to sacrifice the natural beauty and uniqueness of the landscape.
‘‘Ten of the biggest wine producers in Australia have something to do with this region and most are on the rich, ancient Cambrian soils of the Mt Camel range,’’ he said.
‘‘Our wines are not only recognised as some of the best wines in Australia, but also some of the best wines in the world.
‘‘Mt Camel is at the epicentre of this range.
‘‘I am not a greenie. I am a winemaker and a businessman and I understand what progress is about — but not progress at the cost of this iconic mountain.’’
‘‘In the immediate surrounds of Mt Camel there are at least 22 vineyards making wines under their own label and included in these are eight wineries, six of which have cellar doors,’’ Mr Millis said.
‘‘People don’t come here to look at towers and electrical monstrosities. They come to look at the serenity of the countryside.’’
Some residents at the meeting believed Campaspe Shire had not given enough notice for the meeting.
Steffen and Jodie Pfarr, who organised a petition against the tower, said they only received a letter from council on the Friday before the Australia Day long weekend informing them the meeting would be held on the Tuesday.
‘‘Those who signed the petition — and many new objectors who have only just found out about this proposal — were outraged as there was no time to alter their work commitments at that time,’’ Mr Pfarr said.
‘‘All the same, there was a healthy turnout and I think the authorities were surprised by that, and the passion expressed by residents.’’
A Campaspe Shire spokesperson said letters were sent out on January 22, a week prior to the meeting.
Most residents received the letter on January 23 and many had confirmed their attendance, the spokesperson said.
Ms Pfarr said it was wrong that for the community to gain the NBN it would have to lose a natural and irreplaceable landmark.
‘‘This might be a good outcome for the NBN budget but it is not a sustainable outcome for our community,’’ she said.
‘‘Perhaps the NBN designers were unaware of the significance of Mt Camel to this community but this meeting left no doubt that the residents refuse to be railroaded into a tower they do not want or need.’’
While Toolleen resident Neil Sloan believes the NBN would be a good thing for the area, he was against the tower in its proposed location.
‘‘The NBN would be a godsend for me, but not if it involves a 30m tower on Mt Camel,’’ he said.
‘‘I stand up on the top of that mountain like the man from Snowy River and I can see Shepparton, Echuca, Bendigo, and I am less than six-foot (180cm). Why in hell do you want a 30m tower?’’
Those at the meeting urged the NBN Co to investigate alternative sites.
An Ericcson spokesperson said the next step in the process was for the planning application to be assessed by council’s planning department before it was put to the council.
A recommendation from council staff is expected to go before the March council meeting.
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