Bid to end 5G works during pandemic not supported
BYRON'S deputy mayor expressed surprise and concern when a last-minute motion she brought before the council's meeting was rejected.
Introduced as a late motion, councillors first had to vote on whether Cr Sarah Ndiaye's calls for Telstra to stop installation of 5G infrastructure in Mullumbimby was sufficiently urgent.
Most councillors did not support this so the motion did not proceed to the debate, although Cr Ndiaye indicated colleagues had expressed support prior to the meeting.
"I was asking for support in asking Telstra to cease work on the upgrade to 5G during the Covid-19 crisis," Cr Ndiaye said.
She also wanted the council to ask Telstra to halt work until a community complaint to the Australian Communications and Media Authority was addressed.
"Regardless of anyone's position on 5G there's obviously a lot of people in our community, people that have adhered to all the Covid-19 restrictions to self isolate… but feel so strongly about this issue that they're willing to come together at this time."
Cr Ndiaye said she was concerned for the safety of the community, police and the installation workers at this time.
While the Byron Shire's number of positive Covid-19 cases has remained at 16 for a week, she said it was still important to heed physical distancing rules.
But some 300 people gathered at the site on Dalley St yesterday and protesters returned today.
Cr Ndiaye said Telstra could have considered a less contentious site for their 5G upgrades during this time.
"There was strong opposition to this going ahead from our community," she said.
"They chose a site that's highly contentious.
"I'm completely in favour of the current restrictions that we all have to adhere to, because I think they're really important and have proved to be really successful.
"I really wanted to support our police, support our health workers and support our community at the same time.
"To ignore the strong sentiment of the community, then proceed with instillation at a time when people protesting would breach public health guidelines, does not engender much good faith and places our community, police and health services at unnecessary risk."
While the council has issued a moratorium on 5G, pending more information it's sought regarding the technology, Cr Ndiaye said the only apparent form of intervention was a federal injunction on the works.
The work is exempt from requiring state and council approval.
That's not likely, given Richmond MP Justine Elliot posted to Facebook to clarify the upgrade "is legal and will go ahead".
"I strongly advise locals that any public gatherings or protests at this stage contravenes laws relating to social distancing during the coronavirus crisis," she said.
"Disregarding of social distancing directives endangers the health and safety of the wider community, Telstra staff and the police."
Initial report: 11.28am
A LAST-MINUTE motion before Byron Shire Council regarding the installation of 5g in Mullumbimby has been unsupported.
Deputy mayor Sarah Ndiaye brought an urgency motion before the council's ordinary meeting this morning.
The motion called for the council to ask Telstra to cease work on the Dalley St tower, which is bring upgraded to a 5g facility, until a community complaint to ACMA has been addressed and social distancing measures related to Covid-19 have been lifted.
At least some protesters, who were at the site yesterday and have returned today, have been abiding by the 1.5m distancing rule, but the group has breached the ban on gatherings of more than two people.
The motion also called for the council to seek support from Richmond MP Justine Elliot and Communications Minister Paul Fletcher in asking Telstra to stop work.
Before councillors could debate or consider the motion itself, they had to vote upon whether they accepted its urgency.
Cr Ndiaye's motion was put forward as "a matter of urgency" because of the "imminent and current nature" of the protests "and the health implications of this".
"Yesterday there were around 300 people that had … while they'd complied with all other lockdown restrictions, felt this matter compels them to need to protest in the street," Cr Ndiaye said.
She said the motion was a bid to "avoid a public health disaster" and noted the Byron Shire's positive cases had stagnated at 16 for a week, but that more vigilance was required.
"I'm hoping for your support to consider this matter urgent as the protests are happening as we speak," she said.
When put to a vote, Crs Paul Spooner, Cate Coorey, Jan Hackett, Alan Hunter and Basil Cameron voted against the call for it to be considered urgent, meaning the matter would be discussed no further.
Cr Ndiaye said she'd received verbal support from her colleagues before the meeting and labelled the result "disgraceful".