Substation holds cancer fears
By PETER CATON
A BOARD of six wealthy business people, mainly from Sydney, are to decide on whether 160 South Tweed residents, many of them pensioners, will have to live next to a giant electricity substation.
Tweed Shire Council's administrators Max Boyd and Garry Payne have refused to consider a development application for the million-dollar substation to be squeezed between the Billabong Holiday Park and Lindisfarne Primary School%after hearing of the fears of residents and parents about health%effects of electro-magnetic fields and the expected constant buzzing noise.
Instead the administrators want the board of Country Energy to%directly consider the proposal a move protesters yesterday said meant the directors themselves would be negligent if they did not consider alternatives such as an industrial site just 300 metres away. However the board's managing director is standing behind regional management, insisting the substation must go ahead.
The board of six mostly Sydney-based directors and a managing director is headed by chairperson Barbara Ward, who is also a director of other big companies including the Commonwealth Bank, brewer Lion Nathan Limited, property group Multiplex and, a trustee of the Sydney Opera House. The board also includes former federal Labor government minister Michael Lee.
In deferring consideration of the substation, Mr Boyd said the delay would also give more time for alternatives to be studied.
"Because there is such a major issue involved here it is something the board should look at," he said.
Yesterday Country Energy managing director Craig Murray responded to a request for a comment from the board in a statement describing the substation as "essential to meet the existing and future electricity needs of the rapidly growing Tweed Heads area".
"I will write to council administrators to reassure them of our commitment to meeting all statutory requirements to ensure this project goes ahead, so we can deliver an% essential service to homes and businesses in the Tweed," he added.
"Country Energy has carried out a statement of environmental effects and has reaffirmed its commitment to the implementation of a stepped noise-mitigation strategy to ensure ambient background noise meets with Environmental Protection Authority regulations."
Billabong Holiday Park manager Patrick Johnson said research aired this week indicated children continually exposed to electro-magnetic fields were five times more likely to get cancer, and people living nearby%seven times more likely.
"One of the alternative sites is 300 metres away in an industrial zone," he said.
"They would be negligent if they did not look at that site again."
Principal of Lindisfarne Anglican School Chris Duncan said parents of children at the primary school "will be relieved to think it has been put on hold".
"Now there is an opportunity for it to be fully considered, particularly if it is at the board level rather than just by technical people," he said.