TEARS of joy flowed at Tuesday night’s Kalamunda Council meeting, with the City potentially putting an end to residents’ two-year fight against an Optus telecommunication tower set to be installed on Lewis Road.
The City will now investigate the possibility of installing the tower at Hartfield Park, the option residents have said was the best all along.
Two of the major players in getting the City to investigate Hartfield Park, Kalamunda MLA Matthew Hughes and Planning and Lands Minister Rita Saffioti, have slammed the attitude of Optus, who consistently maintained moving the tower to Hartfield Park would take too long and be too costly.
Council originally rejected the proposal to put the tower on the Lewis Road site, citing community concerns over amenity, however Optus applied to the State Administrative Tribunal for a review.
That review was set to begin on Thursday, however based on a meeting between the CEO Rhonda Hardy, Mayor John Giardina and Ms Saffioti, a motion was moved at Council on Tuesday night to defer the reconsideration of the decision to refuse the application in order to seek detailed written clarification of the process and timeline by which the management order of Hartfield Park can be amended to allow the location of the telecommunications mobile base station in the park.
It also requested an adjournment of the SAT tribunal directions hearing scheduled for Thursday.
The decision moved Leonie Gorman, who spearheaded the campaign against the telecommunications tower, to tears.
Her husband Kevin said the process of fighting Optus had been absolutely devastating.
“It’s put our lives on hold,” he said.
“It’s been absolutely devastating for the whole lot of us.
“We’ve been telling them right from the beginning to go to Hartfield Park, they’ve steadfastly refused to look at Hartfield Park at any stage, every time it’s been not a viable motion.”
Ms Saffioti said the issue had been raised with her by Mr Hughes, adding that Optus had incorrectly advised the City.
“Optus has not applied for an alternative location, having previously incorrectly advised the City it would take four years to get the necessary approvals for a tower on an A Class reserve,” she said.
“Optus then pursued other land options for its proposed telecommunications tower.
“The City was advised last night that there are avenues to enable approval without excision or parliamentary approval, and therefore, if Hartfield Park is considered the optimal location, the proposal is possible.”
Mr Hughes, who raised the issue with Ms Saffioti at the urging of Ms Gorman, was harsher in his appraisal of the way Optus had behaved.
“There’s a tendency for them [Optus] to work quite independently of local government,” he said.
“They put forward every reason under the sun why this is the most appropriate and only location.
“There’s a tendency for telecommunications providers to not engage with communities and local government and dig their heels in.
“They tend to say well if you refuse this, we’ll go to SAT and that’s not the best way of dealing with this thing.
“The Gorman’s exploration of that with the Minister would suggest that the impediments Optus suggested existed, in fact didn’t exist at all.”
However Optus still have to agree to the move to Hartfield Park.
Planning Solutions director Ben Doyle, who spoke at the council meeting on Optus’ behalf, refused to comment after the meeting.
Optus have not replied to a request for comment.