Is it time for NZ to consider regulation for low impact telecommunications infrastructure?

Is it time for NZ to consider regulation for low impact telecommunications infrastructure?

Telecommunications are an essential part of  life.  We use telecommunication services for personal and business communications, to transfer critical financial data, for fire and burglary control systems, for emergency services, to watch television and to access the internet.  

So, if in New Zealand, we wish to improve our quality of life and  maintain and improve our competitive advantage on the world stage,we need to be able to take advantage of rapid technological advances. Fast, reliable and cost effective telecommunications not only reflects community aspirations, but broader Government policy.  Many Governments recognise the direct benefits of better access to modern telecommunications, as well as the broader indirect environmental benefits (eg Teleworking reduces traffic congestion). But telecommunications require an investment in physical infrastructure.  And with continued growth in services and customer uptake,  there’s a greater  need to provide the infrastructure closer to the customer than ever before.  This creates conflict and tension.  The broader community want and need the benefits that modern telecommunications bring, but telecommunications infrastructure can also create adverse effects and angst for those who live close to where it is located.

Network providers seek to roll out services using standardised equipment as it is cost effective and efficient. But there’s considerable variation between government authorities and how they manage the decision making process for this infrastructure.

It’s therefore important that a degree of consistency for assessing  infrastructure is achieved.  This  provides certainty for the telecommunications industry when sourcing equipment and for providing a cost effective and timely service for the good of the broader community.

To assist with the roll out of telecommunications infrastructure, some governments have introduced national regulations.  In New Zealand, the Government introduced the National Environmental Standard for Telecommunications in 2008.  These Standards provide for the co-location of aboveground infrastructure of a particular size and low impact nature, located within road reserves throughout New Zealand.  In Australia, the Federal Government introduced the Telecommunications (Low-impact Facilities) Determination in 1997.  The important differentiator between the New Zealand and Australian regulations is that the Determination in Australia provides for the establishment of low impact telecommunications infrastructure on both public and private land.

Isn’t it time for New Zealand to consider regulation for low impact telecommunications infrastructure on private land?  The National Environmental Standard for Telecommunications has now been in effect in New Zealand for over five years.  Wouldn’t it be appropriate for the Government to undertake a review?  You never know, we could learn something by looking over the ditch.

This thought leadership article is by Poul Israelson, a Planning Manager in our Brisbane office. Our thought leadership articles on topical and specialist issues are designed to present the key points in an easy to digest and interesting manner.

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