Some background if you don't know me...
When I joined Telecom I was part of its mobile engineering group. Over my time at Telecom I was involved in probably the most contentious period that the local mobile industry faced. Networks were moving from being carphone based to needing to meet customer requirements for mobile handsets that were used indoors. Network sites were moving from relatively invisible locations to being required to be located in the community.
I personally fronted up to numerous community meetings, resource consent hearings and also gave evidence in the Environment Court. I also spent a lot of time visiting concerned residents in their homes to talk *with* them (as opposed *to* them) about their concerns and options we had to address them.
I was often asked whether I would consider installing a mobile phone site next to my own house. I was (and remain) so confident about their safety that my desk was located about 15 m away from a very busy urban site , on the same level. I ate my own dogfood.
At that time, as of now, the most contentious element of mobile phone sites was the issue of whether they were safe from a health perspective.
It's a totally understandable question - these installations are characterised as being physically out of proportion (15 - 20 m high) with the local environment (especially suburban areas), emitting something you could not see, hear, taste, smell or feel. It's the perfect unknown threat.
Furthermore there is a sense of lack of choice about these types of installations - no-one really wants them around yet they do want the utility that mobile phones provide.
In short I seriously empathise with people who have genuine concerns about mobile phone sites, and moreso if they are concerned about their children. They are feeling a real emotion.
What I take issue with is people who should know better, and who confuse this issue with many others. They stir up the local community and quite often, in my opinion, raise a spectre of concern that causes so much stress for the individuals that is much more damaging to the health than anything a mobile phone site could possible cause. These types of sites are the result.
The two main arguments being used now are the same as 10 years ago
1. Mobile phones are new - not enough time to prove whether there are long term effects.
Some studies are showing health issues related to mobile phone sites - we should be cautious about their implementation.
2. Mobile phone sites are like power lines and there are cancerous effects from power lines so the same must be true.
I have to answer these points
1. This technology is not new. Mobile phone technology has been around for 20 years. Furthermore it's based on radio technology that has been around for over 100 years. If long term safety issues were going to arise they would be found by now.
Furthermore the World Health Organisation has spent $250m on this issue and continues to research it.
2. Mobile phone sites are based on Electromagnetic frequency (EMF) transmission. High Voltage power lines are based on Extra Low Frequency (ELF) electromagnetic frequency (EMF).
The World Health Organisation (WHO) rates ELF as a possibly carcinogenic to humans. This is on a three point scale of carcinogenic, probably carcinogenic and possible carcinogenic. Note that gasoline engine exhaust is in the same category of possibly carcinogenic.
So that's the ELF side (ie high voltage power lines)
WHO has this to say about EMFs specifically from mobile phone sites.
From all evidence accumulated so far, no adverse short- or long-term health effects have been shown to occur from the RF signals produced by base stations
Telecom has clearly made some errors on judgement in how the consultation was (or more importantly wasn't undertaken). This can be resolved by respecting that those who have fears are genuinely concerned, respecting that and trying to find a mutually agreeable solution.
But to see Nick Smith and Sue Kedgeley suggesting that radiations levels are high and that the Crown would be liable for compensation if there are health affects are purely grandstanding and not adding to the debate. Both of these people should know that the Environment Court in NZ has made it clear in its judgement related to the case of Shirley School that other communities should refer to this decision.
What is key for Telecom now is to spend lots of one on one time with this community to rebuild trust and come to an understanding of how to best work together. It will only be through respecting the community's concern will any progress be made.
It doesn't really matter what I say I guess - it's what I do.
Ella has just started at a pre-school two days a week. There are two sites within 100 m of the pre-school. My position on this issue is clear.