A COUNCILLOR has spoken out after members of the public allegedly alluded to rape while trying to stop land being leased to Optus.
Mount Alexander Shire representatives debated the merits of leasing part of Castlemaine's Wesley Hill recreation reserve for a telecommunications tower when they met on Tuesday night.
Cr Rosie Annear used a statement during the discussion to speak out against "bullying language" some objectors had used to try to block the project.
"I do not appreciate being told that I am becoming complicit in a crime," she said.
"I do not appreciate being told that I am exposing people and their families to harm, I do not appreciate being told that I am committing non-consensual assault, I do not appreciate being told I am touching and penetrating people's bodies without their consent."
Cr Annear listed 11 accusations she said were contained in objections to the Optus tower made in writing and at public meetings prior to Tuesday night's meeting.
"What I find most distressing about many [objector] submissions was the misappropriation of language around sexual assault," she said.
The language some objectors used was "cynical and, frankly, offensive" to girls and women who had been sexually assaulted, Cr Annear said.
"It trivialises the experiences of assaults people go through every day. I don't believe this argument should be used to intimidate and make others do what you want," she said.
Cr Annear said everyone who spoke to councillors should remember they are people first, with their own lives, feelings and experiences, "and should be afforded basic respect and decency".
Cr Stephen Gardner said he had not interpreted objections in the same light as Cr Annear but could see how they could be interpreted as degrading.
"I hope that people take that on board," he said.
Cr Gardner was among the councillors who said they were unhappy that some opponents had made legal threats and said it would not affect their positions on the lease.
Cr Annear said she appreciated submitters who expressed their concerns about potential health effects for families in strong and respectful terms.
She too was worried that there could be impacts for people living with a 5G tower in the neighbourhood for the 21 years that Optus wanted to lease the land.
Cr Gary McClure said he could not support the lease. He said he did not have enough knowledge to be certain there would be no radiation and microwave effects.
"I read with distress, I guess, a number of the concerns that the residents have, and there ... have been quite a few letters of distress about this particular facility," Cr McClure said.
Cr Gardner was among those who supported the facility. He said it would meet Australian codes and implored councillors not to accept "alternate" and unproven theories stating otherwise.
"I don't believe it's contentious because I listen to science and believe in it," he said.
The bulk of objectors' concerns had been dealt with earlier in the planning process and the bid had been endorsed by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal, Cr Gardner said.
The permit had already been granted and has come before council only because the council needed to make a decision about leasing the land it would sit on.
"Overarchingly, it's a good deal for council. We get an extra tower paid for and we get rent," Cr Gardner said.
The tower would go in an area where the council "needed" 5G, he said.
"It is a site that has blackspots ... we need an improved service," Cr Gardner said.
Cr Christine Henderson opposed the telecommunications tower lease because of its height and location.
"All around it are quarter-acre blocks, and smaller," she said.
Council ultimately approved the lease four votes to three.
See the full meeting here.
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