Telstra is planning to upgrade one of its towers in Byron Bay to 5G technology.
Telstra is planning to upgrade one of its towers in Byron Bay to 5G technology.

5G debate: Science clashes with public concerns

BYRON Shire Council has continued to push for more information and accountability around 5G technology.

Councillors gave consideration of whether to lodge a submission on Telstra’s planned upgrade at its existing 8 Acacia St tower during last week’s planning meeting.

Tashi Lhamo from Northern Rivers for Safe Technology urged the councillors to oppose the upgrade.

Ms Lhamo said local businesses didn’t “want or need” the upgrade and raised concerns about the proximity to a preschool and two childcare centres, all within 500m of the towers, in conflict with the Department of Education’s preference.

The meeting heard the centres were built after the existing tower was installed there.

Councillor Sarah Ndiaye said the council was “yet to get an answer as to who is responsible if things do go wrong, if there are cumulative impacts”.

She said the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency, effectively the watchdog of EMF technologies, has no such responsibility.

Cr Paul Spooner raised issue with scientific claims Ms Lhamo’s group circulated to the council, saying some came from “nefarious sources” including an organisation which “promotes views claiming carbon dioxide is not a greenhouse gas” while another published “fringe conspiracies”.

“Mobile technology is a non-ionising form of radiation,” Cr Spooner said.

“It doesn’t change our DNA and it’s never been proven to harm our bodies or the ecosystems.”

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Cr Spooner showed to his fellow councillors a diagram of the electromagnetic spectrum which shows how mobile technology is less impressive, inspirational than visible light.

Mayor Simon Richardson said no local MPs were “remotely interested” in backing the council in its moratorium on 5G, in which it has requested upgrades be halted before more information can be provided.

“I find it hard as someone who brands himself as progressive, who believes in science and evidence, that I’m going to pick and choose it,” Cr Richardson said.

“I acknowledge the conflicts people have, I acknowledge the external pressures members of our community are exerting due to their personal beliefs that they’re perfectly free to have, I just don’t share them enough.”

Cr Ndiaye said the community “deserve an answer” on the queries the council previously raised with authorities.

After a range of motions, the council voted to provide feedback to Telstra recognising 5G’s compliance with current regulations, but also reaffirmed a request for “a comprehensive review of the cumulative impacts of the 5G technology” and “identification of who holds responsibility for the ongoing monitoring of any cumulative impacts”.

It is understood a protest opposing the upgrade was held yesterday.