Rockingham council meeting fallout

Aiden BoyhamSound Telegraph

The City of Rockingham met for its March council meeting on Tuesday night, with a phone tower proposal in Secret Harbour and a trip to Rockingham’s Japanese sister City Ako dominating the agenda.

At the invitation of the State Administrative Tribunal, the council finally approved an application from Telstra to build a 25m phone tower next to Secret Harbour Shopping Centre.

The item, which had already been knocked back twice by the council, returned for a third time after SAT held mediation between the proponent and the City.

During mediation Councillors Deb Hamblin and Mark Jones had fought unsuccessfully to move the proposal to a different location.

During debate, Cr Hamblin acknowledged the prospect that a costly adverse ruling against the City from SAT was likely if the proposal was rejected a third time.

Fellow councillors Matt Whitfield and Chris Elliott backed the proposal, citing its compliance with council planning and Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency policies.

Councillors Kath Summers and Leigh Liley both rallied against it as they questioned the science behind research into phone tower radiation, urging caution needed to be applied to such proposals.

A decisive 7-3 vote in favour of the tower later drew the ire of some in the public gallery.

The council also voted 6-4 in favour of sending a six-person delegation to Ako later this year, with debate between councillors and the public split on whether it was worth the $35,000 investment.

During public question time residents asked whether the relationship had brought any economic benefit back to the City.

Cr Whitfield said there was a lack of rigour around the item, citing a preference for a trip to French City Cherbourg instead as it held strong ties to the City’s Renaissance Technopole plans.

Mayor Barry Sammels and councillors Liley, Hamblin, Elliott and Andrew Burns all spoke in favour of the item, pointing out the relationship had brought the City a number of cultural benefits and was a small expense in a city budget of $170 million.

After an amendment to send just the mayor and chief executive on the trip instead was defeated, the council eventually resolved to send councillors Hamblin and Burns as part of the delegation along with Mayor Sammels and the City’s chief executive.

The trip will be the City’s first to Ako since 2011 and comes on the back of a visit from a Japanese delegation in November last year.

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