Phone mast and Community Board

Part 2 of Stephanie Honeychurch’s overview of phone mast issues.

The role of the (previous) Waiheke Community Board regarding the phonemast issue

Recently  Andrew Crawford, Dr Stuart Reuben,  Ruth Gracie and I were interviewed by another TV researcher about the Waiheke phonemast protest.    In June, Stuart and I were interviewed for a doco called ‘Invisible Forces,’ due to go to air in March.  I mention this, because if the second doco goes ahead that will be two TV programmes (particulary, the second), that relate to and shine a light on our previous Community Board’s farsighted actions on  behalf of Waihekeans and by extension, all New Zealanders.

Denise Roche, as Councillor, was delegated by the Board to write to the Prime Minister to ask him to “urgently instigate a review of the National Environmental Standards (NES) for Electromagentic Radiation and the placement of cellphone masts.”  The Board made a resolution to keep lobbying Parliament to review this clearly unjust and inadequate law which was largely written by the cellphone companies themselves and acts to their benefit and to the detriment of ordinary people.  Anyone doubting this, should look up “Txt ‘M” To Mobilise,” by John Landrigan, written for The Aucklander, in which the telcos openly admit their involvement in the NES.

The Community Board’s awareness of this issue began in August, 2008, when Dr Stuart Reuben presented medical evidence of a multiplication of ten times the national average rate for cancer  at Netanya in Israel for two consecutive years after the installation of a cellphone transmitter.   This is by no means the only study showing serious harm.  Stuart is an internationally recognised medical scientist having discovered the formulae by which blood flow is measured all over the world, he is an Oxford graduate and has four degrees with Honours, a background in cardiology and was Head of Research for Pfizer in America.  Stuart is more highly qualified than the doctor advising our Government.

Thanks largely to Andrew Crawford’s brilliance and sheer persistance, all three of the telcos sent management to meet with the Waiheke Community Board. The telcos were asked to take four actions;  to involve the public in the process, to implement a post-installation health monitoring programme, to update the relevant standards (unchanged since 1998) and most importantly, to sign a guarantee that there will be no health effects. All four actions were declined.  Disturbingly, whilst insisting phonemasts are safe the telcos emphatically refuse to sign a guarantee that there will be no harm.

After this Chairman Tony Sears said “one of the things that came out of the meeting is that communities need to put greater pressure on central Government for stronger standards.”  The letter to the PM states that “It is the Waiheke Community Board’s view that the standards that are currently in place offer no protection to ordinary citizens and we would appreciate your response on how soon the National Standards can be reviewed.  Members of our community also have criticisms that the independent panel of experts that were part of reviewing the existing standards are not independent and are too close to the industry.”

The Board’s letter to the PM also states that “On Waiheke our community has concerns based on the growing international evidence that there are health risks associated with living near cellsites.  In addition the real estate industry is reporting that properties situated near cellphone towers are devalued by their proximity to the sites.  It is unfair in the extreme that it is the neighbours that bear the consequences of living near these installations, but have no say in their placement.”

It is known that proximity to  even a lampost-type phonemast automatically devalues neighbouring properties from 10 to 15%.  This figure can go higher because the larger the number of masts, size or public notoriety of the cellsite the more it devalues surrounding properties..  Marine 3G cellsites transmit for up to 30kms, the older, 2G versions transmitted for up to 11 kms.   The current proliferation and closeness of 3G phonemasts is purely profit-driven, but as the long term effects of EMR come to light, it seems our children will be the ones to pay.

Raising a standard up the mast

children in movie signs wearing tinfoil hats to protect against alien signalsDiscovering the One Waiheke website recently has given me joy (which goes to show what a boring life I lead).  Alan Knight’s superb ‘Media Watch’ in particular, has given  great pleasure but some mental anguish and confusion also.  I voted for Nikki Kaye, but help pack the Gulf News for a couple of hours on Thursday mornings, which must surely qualify me to be a “Bolshevik Cohort” or at least have latent pinko tendencies according to Alan, (who makes more sense than  most politicians).  My political leanings ARE decidedly wobbly having veered from side to side voting either Labour or National, whichever one appeared to be the lesser of two evils at the time.  Rather like voting for Len Brown because he is not John Banks.

After many years of total political apathy/cynicism/disinterest I underwent a strange transformation when in a fit of NIMBYism I did some serious research on phonemasts.  Over the last two years I have met (and harangued) MPs Cath Tizard, Nick Smith, Nikki Kaye, Phil Twyford and Jacinda Ardern.  Once one of the world’s worst correspondents, my Cornish cousins assumed I was dead for years.  Now, in my evangelistic fervour I have become a Forrest Gump of letter writers in my determination to publicise this issue.

It is true that ignorance is bliss, but it is not true that what we don’t know doesn’t hurt us.  Therefore, I intend to share the burden of accumulated information on this subject with One Waiheke readers as time and energy permit over the next few weeks in the hope that in becoming aware of all the dodgy aspects (vested interests, junk science, etc.) others will join the push for change.   We expect our elected government to protect us, yet history has proven that when it comes down to money, governments everywhere are reluctant to let go of the lolly.

With regard to the phonemast issue (National Environmental Standards)  both major parties are as bad as each other.  Trevor Mallard, as Minister for the Environment, pushed the NES through, under unexplained urgency in the dying days of the Labour  Government.  The usually nosy, noisy Nats said nothing and the folk-dancing Green’s drug ridden views were pointedly ignored by the media, who because of the timing of this Bill were in a pre-election feeding frenzy anyway and couldn’t be bothered with real reporting.  Since then a number of petitions objecting to the NES including the Crawford (Waiheke) petition were sent to Parliament.  A Select Committee was formed, made certain recommendations such as removing vested interests from the Government’s advisory panel.  The Government declined to accept any of the recommendations.  This is like Rothmans and Pall Mall advising the Government not to listen to those naughty, trouble-making malcontents who sign petitions or even to pay attention to their own MP’s recommendations such as smoking is perfectly safe because Big Tobacco says so.

Campaigners do not want to abolish cellphones or to halt progress.  Since 2008,  New Zealand has had one of the most permissive, slackest standards in the world in relation to the siting of phonemasts and levels of radiation.  Marine 3G cellsites can transmit for 30 kms.  The current proliferation of masts is purely profit driven.  Campaigners believe that New Zealanders should at least have the same standard of protection that much of Europe and even such countries with poor human rights records such as China and Russia have.  This is not unreasonable.

In case in the future anyone whose name has been associated with mine wishes to disown me, ( for whatever reason), please note that unless quoted, all opinions given are entirely my own.