Surprise finding tower being built

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A large hole that turned up unexpectedly by the entrance to Alexandra Bowling Club was something of a surprise to club president John Lochhead.

The 5m by 5m hole was being dug by Spark to install a cellphone tower.

His first thought was that it was “absolutely shocking” that Spark had begun work on the tower without informing the bowling club.

It was also a surprise they had chosen a site directly outside the entrance to the club, he said.

After contacting the Central Otago District Council he found the area was “road reserve and Spark can put a cellphone tower wherever they like”.

“We didn’t know it was going to go in until they came along and dug the hole.”

The tower could have been put a little further along Boundary Rd so that it wasn’t directly by the entrance to the club, Mr Lochhead said.

After contacting Spark, Mr Lochhead discovered the company had sent an email to the bowling club but only two days before construction began.

A spokeswoman for Spark said the proposed new site was outlined and agreed with the council, and a resource consent issued on November 8.

Demand for mobile services had seen an unprecedented rise in the Alexandra area over the past few years, she said.

“There is only one Spark mobile tower in Alexandra which is close to reaching its sensible limits so another two towers are required to ensure we maintain the high levels of mobile connectivity in Alexandra that our customers expect.

“The site will be built in full accordance with all compliance requirements and located on a road reserve. The conditions of the consent, and its chosen location did not require any formal notification to surrounding neighbours.”

The spokeswoman said Spark decided to engage with the bowling club because works were close to the club entrance.

A letter, brochure and site and land plan were sent to the club president via email using the contact details on the club website.

“Subsequently the club has advised that the email contact details for their president on their website were incorrect, so we have been discussing the planned site with one of the club members via telephone last week,” the spokeswoman said.

“The club has not raised any concerns directly with us, although we are in discussions about helping to move their sign to a more prominent position so it isn’t obscured.”

As well as the tower to be built outside the bowling club, the company would be using an existing tower on top of a telecommunications facility in Ennis St to increase their capacity.

“We are working hard to try to achieve this before Christmas and the expected influx of holidaymakers to the area, which usually puts a strain on the existing mobile infrastructure.”

Mr Lochhead said he was reassured the new mobile tower would be less obtrusive than he first thought, but thought the company could have given the club more notice.

“You can find the bowling club phone number in the white pages if you want to.”

The Spark representative was “very good, and she did apologise for the fact that the contractors had the hole dug two days after Spark sent the email”, Mr Lochhead said.