By Elliott Brennan
Dunningham Reserve in Coogee is set to become the site of a submarine fibre-optic cable link reaching all the way to the United States.
Randwick City council has revealed that Dunningham Reserve will be subject to the construction of infrastructure required for the link during the early months of summer.
The cable, named the APX East, will measure over 12,700 km long by the time it reaches California and will carry a significant amount of Australia’s voice and data traffic with the US and multiple Pacific Island nations.
“Submarine cables are essential components of Australia’s national infrastructure. They carry the bulk of Australia’s voice and data traffic linking Australia to the rest of the world,” a spokesperson for the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) said.
A process called horizontal drilling will begin in early October that will see SubPartners, the company in charge of the construction and maintenance of the APX East, tunnel into a section of the park that overlooks Coogee Beach.
“The APX East will generally connect through existing Telstra lines,” said a spokesperson from Randwick City Council.
The cable will be carried underground and remain undetectable until it is well out to sea.
“The only remaining visible infrastructure will be a manhole lid in Dunningham Reserve,” the council told businesses.
The choice of location has led some locals and business owners to question whether the project would have been better undertaken either elsewhere, or in the winter months when the Coogee has less tourist activity.
“Dunningham Reserve is the last viable location to bring a submarine cable ashore,” said Matt Whitlock, the Chief Operating Officer of SubPartners.
Other suitable sites in the North Shore and as close as Bondi and Clovelly already house similar links with multiple other nations.
In a letter sent out to local businesses, a spokesperson for Randwick council said: “Council is not the approving authority for these works. We would however like to inform business owners who operate in the north end of Coogee Beach about the upcoming works.”
In earlier letters they identified that their lack of approval powers was due to Schedule 3 of the Telecommunications Act 1997 that grants all works related to national communications “immunity from planning laws.”
Subpartners revealed to City Hub that they had been in cooperation with Randwick council since December 2013.
“Their inputs have been used to help us formulate our overall project plan. Our preferred course of engagement is always to work hand-in-hand with council to ensure that we plan and carry out our works in a sensitive and appropriate manner,” said Mr Whitlock.
The environmental effects of the construction are expected to be minimal, with a period of 48 hours at the completion of drilling where 20-30m3 of the drill lubricant will be released into the water being the only unavoidable impact.
The lubricant disperses quickly into the water and will have no lasting effect on the beach or its surroundings.