07/12/2004 - 21:00

Space battle comes to head

07/12/2004 - 21:00

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A DECADE-LONG battle between Telstra and landowners over a buffer zone for a $300 million satellite communications centre has come to a head in the Western Australian Planning Commission.

Space battle comes to head

A DECADE-LONG battle between Telstra and landowners over a buffer zone for a $300 million satellite communications centre has come to a head in the Western Australian Planning Commission.

The disagreement between land owners, government authorities and Telstra has prevented the rezoning of the land in East Landsdale from rural to urban.

Telstra remains the only opponent after landowners overcame early reservations from the Environmental Protection Authority, the Waters and Rivers Commission, and the City of Wanneroo.

An April Metropolitan Scheme Amendment (MRS) proposing the rezoning of 225 hectares of land currently used as a ‘buffer’ has met no opposition, other than from Telstra, which says it is has to retain a buffer to protect the integrity of its systems.

Telstra says its 287 hectare International Telecommunications Centre would need to be dismantled and relocated if the rezoning goes ahead and the cost of doing so would be prohibitive.

A Telstra representative said that since 1987, more than $300 million had been invested in the centre.

In addition, he said international agreements and obligations with agencies including Intelsat, Inmarsat, PanAmSat Communi-cations, the European Space Agency, Telesat Canada and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency precluded Telstra from moving the facility.

These agreements include obligations to track and monitor spacecraft in their early launch phase and subsequent orbital life.

The Perth facility has 23 satellite antennas ranging from 3.8 metres to 32 metres in diameter.

City of Wanneroo deputy mayor Sam Salpietro said there had been a dispute about the land for 10 years.

“There is a very large piece of land which Telstra has been able to prevent being developed on the basis that it is being used as a buffer zone and they have done everything in their power to prevent the land being rezoned,” he said.

“I honestly believe their objection is misplaced, as there is only one large dish which requires utilisation of the buffer zone.

“A few years ago Telstra began negotiations with the DPI [Department of Planning and Infrastructure] to relocate that dish on some State Government-owned land to the east of the facility.

“All parties ultimately agreed, including the DPI and Telstra, except on the lease fee.”

Mr Salpietro said the fact negotiations occurred about a lease fee indicated Telstra’s objection to a rezoning was about money and not about a buffer zone.

“After having argued about the amount it costs to relocate a dish, it stops it being a buffer zone issue.

“I firmly believe that Telstra hasn’t been genuine in their attempts to relocate and essentially if they genuinely require the buffer zone, they should go to the land owners and buy the land or compensate them.

Telstra and developers Stockland both made submissions to a closed Western Australian Planning Commission (WAPC) hearing this week, but neither party would comment on their submissions.

It is understood Stockland owns some land in the contentious zone. If that buffer zone land is rezoned, Stockland will develop its land in addition to acting as project manager for some other land owners in the area.

There are 64 lots in the proposed amendment, varying between four and five hectares in size and all in private ownership.

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