Opinion by ANDREW WOODHOUSE
“Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse,” says the 19th-century poem. Yet outside people’s homes and at the letter boxes of number 20 Wylde Street, Potts Point, our Australian Defence Department was in mouse-like fashion scurrying about secreting a Notice to neighbours telling them a massive industrial electrical transformer sub-station will be built within weeks right under their bedroom windows.
The Notice gives no hint about the size, height or description of the structure. No justification for bulldozing two majestic, significant fig trees, no view loss analysis or acoustic report, heritage impact statement, electro-magnetic radiation field (EMF) emissions assessment or fixed time-line for construction were provided. A transformer converts high-energy electricity to low-energy useable power via a magnetic core. It’s part of the mega-billion Garden Island Naval Defence upgrade. But why can’t it go underground, as they do overseas? These are our taxes at work!
No wonder “NAVY” is a four letter word in this precinct.
This project is now a major public safety hazard.
EMF linked to cancer-causing leukaemia
High-level electro-magnetic field radiation emissions (EMF) from transformers are linked to cancer-causing leukaemia. A 1991 panel on EMF established by the Victorian Government examined power-lines, which are low-frequency EMFs, not transformers. And yet despite limiting their field of study, its report recommended prudent avoidance to avert potentially harmful effects (Peach et al. 1992).
The American Cancer Society says high-levels of EMF “can damage the DNA inside cells, which can lead to mutations and the uncontrolled cell growth we know as cancer.”
Mr Tom Kelly, resident of 20 Wylde Street and Secretary of its Strata Committee, said, “The occupiers of Garden View at number 20 are very disappointed that Defence are behaving in such an unneighbourly manner. Until now we have enjoyed a good and workable relationship.
“Our historic apartment block, where the late Dame Joan Sutherland lived, was built in 1930, well before Department of Defence reclaimed the harbour foreshore in front of us to expand Garden Island … Being a Commonwealth department, Defence is not subject to the normal legal processes of making a development application, as would any other neighbour who wanted to erect a large structure a few metres from our building. But to only provide notice the Friday before Christmas, when everyone is starting their holidays, is both underhand and arrogant.
“It is very frustrating not knowing the size, precise placement, or the environmental effects of this structure with construction due to commence immediately. It is well known that transformers emit electro-magnetic radiation which may be linked to cancer and Leukemia (blood cancer).
“We request that no work proceed until we meet with the Department of Defence to discuss our concerns,” Mr Kelly said.
Residents have a right to live in their chosen environment – safely.
And they have not been indolent. They have contacted the responsible ministers, Members of Parliament and local councillors.
No meeting has been arranged with the Garden Island (East) Critical Infrastructure Recovery Program (CIRP) teamas at the date of City Hub going to press.
The Defence Department’s relationships with neighbours is handled by the enigmatic CIRP, which have been requested to attend a meeting while work is put on hold.