ARTICLE: First 5G tower activated in the Byron Shire

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12 March, 2021

Despite fierce community opposition, Telstra has begun its roll out of 5G in the Byron Shire by upgrading and activating a mobile phone tower at McLeods Shoot on St Helena Road.

News of the upgrade was made official on the Radio Frequency National Site Archive on March 9. Telstra has also confirmed it will complete its 5G upgrades on the Dalley St (Mullumbimby), Acacia St (Byron Bay), Fletcher St (Byron Bay), Arrow Head Ln (Bangalow) and Pecan Crt (Suffolk Park) towers in the next six months.

Rinat Strahlhofer from Northern Rivers for Safe Technology said while the group was deeply disappointed that Byron Shire was no longer 5G free, it would continue to take on the telecommunications giant through peaceful and creative strategies.

“This is a David and Goliath battle of epic proportions. Even while 5G has been rolled out across Australia, thanks to the efforts of many across the community, Byron Bay has managed to remain 5G free for the past year since Telstra tried to upgrade Mullumbimby tower last April,” Rinat said.

“However, the reality is that despite intense lobbying at the local, State and Federal level, thousands of signatures collected in opposition to the upgrades and a raft of other measures, our efforts have simply been ignored by Telstra.”

If Telstra successfully fulfils its 5G plans in the Shire, we are faced with the grim reality of living with wireless radiation 24/7. The impacts of this untested technology are potentially devastating for our health, environment, data security and privacy, not to mention property prices. All this in a destination which attracts people for its natural beauty and chilled-out vibes.”

Rinat said at the root of the problem was a profound lack of accountability from regulators, phone manufacturers and the telco industry.

“Current statutory acts, safety guidelines and community consultation around phone towers and smart phones are failing the community at the deepest level because they are outdated and inadequate,” she said.

“They simply don’t consider the terrifying reality of 5G, which requires small cell boxes or antennas placed every 150 to 250 metres in public places or in front of people’s homes or offices. Even more terrifying is that even though 5G will bring 10 to 100 times higher radiation levels than existing networks, it remains untested.”

Under the Mobile Phone Base Station Deployment Code, telecommunication carriers are obliged to provide “greater transparency to local community and councils when a Carrier is planning sites for, installing and operating mobile phone radio communications infrastructure” and to allow the community “to have greater participation in the decision-making process of Carriers when deploying mobile phone base stations”.

In a recent email to Northern Rivers for Safe Technology regarding McLeods Shoot, Telstra stated that “upgrades to existing base stations follow a Notification process rather than a full community Consultation such as we undertake for new sites”.

The group – whose core actions and campaigns have received nationwide media coverage and support from leading international scientists and high-profile organisations in the field – is now urging residents to boycott 5G phones and to be on high alert for potential 5G upgrade activities on the list of other towers.

Rinat said: “489 million 5G smartphones are estimated to be sold in 2021. Now more than ever, it’s important to boycott 5G phones until this new technology is properly tested. We hold the remote control as 5G enabled devices speak to the 5G infrastructure. By boycotting 5G phones, you directly disable the network connection.”

Support for Northern Rivers for Safe Technology has poured in from many parents at the Cape Byron Rudolf Steiner School, which is less than 850 metres to the McLeod Shoot tower. Community members are being called to watch for 5G upgrades at their local towers.

Parent Claire Alexander-Johnston said: “While we understand technology is an essential part of the modern world, it should not come at a cost to our children’s health. The school is too close to this tower. More studies need to be done on the next generation of wireless radiation and the impact of living close to 5G towers.”

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