Cellphone tower worries could spur rule changes

Growing concern over the proliferation of cellphone towers could prompt changes to the Dunedin City Council's district plan.

The council is expected to call for public submissions on possible changes to the rules section of its district plan by the middle of next year, and council hearings committee chairman Cr Colin Weatherall said he expected objections to cellphone-tower rules to be raised.

That could include arguments from both sides, with some residents wanting tighter controls and cellphone companies seeking greater leniency in the rules governing their towers.

Cr Weatherall's comments came as concern grew in Dunedin over the construction of three cellphone towers.

The Otago Daily Times last week reported Brighton couple Stephen and Kaye Wilson were considering selling their home, or appealing to the Environment Court, after the council approved plans for a 30m-high cellphone tower near their property.

The tower, to be built by Vodafone New Zealand on land owned by the council, was more than twice the height allowed under district plan rules, but was approved after a council assessment of the environmental effects found in the firm's favour.

In a separate case, Blackhead Rd resident Barbara Mason told the ODT she was concerned at the sudden appearance of a Vodafone tower built on private land 100m from her rural residential property.

The tower was installed in March while she was on holiday, and a second Telecom tower was planned for another privately-owned property nearby.

Asked about the two developments, Cr Weatherall said both towers complied with district plan rules, including height, and a staff assessment had not identified any houses nearby which were adversely affected.

They therefore required only the consent of the owners of the sites they were to be built on before being granted non-notified resource consent.

Cr Weatherall said the council was not able to consider concerns over possible adverse health effects from cellphone tower emissions, but he could understand community concern over the towers' sudden appearance.

The district plan needed to be updated to "modernise" and reflect community concerns, he said.

Updating the plan would include public submissions and a hearing, and the process would be open to everyone, he said.

chris.morris@odt.co.nz

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