10 May 2023

Sneaky Telstra expected to cop wrath of Cooktown residents

| Matt Nicholls
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Telstra wants to erect a 26.4-metre phone tower on this block of land, situated on the corner of Walker and Charlotte streets in Cooktown’s CBD.

COOK Shire Council will be left with no choice but to reject a proposed Telstra tower after the telecommunications company tried to sneak the application past the public’s eye.

Telstra wants to erect a 26.4-metre phone tower on the main street of Cooktown, which has drawn the ire of local residents and businesses after it was brought to their attention on social media last week.

It’s clear Telstra didn’t want them to find out.

In a likely breach of the state government’s Planning Act 2016, Telstra failed to advertise its development application in any local newspaper, or place notices on the property in a reasonable time frame.

Section 53 of the Actsays development applications that are impact assessable or that include a variation request must be publicly notified in the way or ways stated in the Development Assessment Rules.

Under section 17.1 of the DA Rules, the applicant, or the assessment manager acting on behalf of the applicant must give public notice by (emphasis added) –

(a) publishing a notice at least once in a newspaper circulating generally in the locality of the premises the subject of the application; and

(b) placing notice on the premises the subject of the application that must remain on the premises for the period of time up to and including the stated day; and

(c) giving notice to the adjoining owners of all lots adjoining the premises the subject of the application.

Telstra’s development application notice period runs from May 12 to June 2 (Thursday), but neighbouring properties did not receive notice until well after May 12.

The sign on the property, located on the corner of Walker and Charlotte streets, was also erected after May 12.

The sign went up after May 12, according to local residents.

To date, there has been no notice in the Cape York Weekly or the New Cooktown Independent newsletter.

Gungarde Community Centre Aboriginal Corporation has an office opposite the Telstra block and is against a tower being erected on the site.

CEO Greg Whittaker has written an objection to Cook Shire Council and hopes other businesses and ratepayers do the same.

He passed on a copy of his objection to Cape York Weekly.

“All board directors unanimously voted against this massive tower being erected adjacent to Gungarde’s property,” Mr Whittaker wrote on behalf of the board.

“What an eyesore this tower would create in the main street of Cooktown.

“There are other suitable sites that already house Telstra towers; why can’t this service be located onto the new tower just completed on the outskirts of Cooktown, or another location outside of the town on a hill or higher ground than the proposed site?”

Cook Shire mayor Peter Scott said he was unimpressed with Telstra’s attitude towards informing the public.

“I thought it could have been advertised … I hadn’t even heard it was happening until I spoke to Greg,” he said.

“They have a brand new tower in the middle of town so I’m not sure why they couldn’t use that. I haven’t even spoken to Telstra about this.”

Cr Scott said he was expecting the council to receive a flood of objections from members of the Cooktown community that were against a 26-metre tower in the main street. Submissions close on Thursday.

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