Wānaka Sun       

5G’s arrival in Central Otago divides opinion

Posted at 6:00am Thursday 03 Oct, 2019 | By Bella Couwenberg

Last week Alexandra was the first region in the country to have 5G switched on. The capabilities are only available to a hand-selected group of customers within the area, however, Spark says it is expected to have a positive impact on regional growth through start-ups and the likes of digital nomads who are able to choose Central Otago to live and work remotely. 

This 5G rollout will possibly soon see Hāwea affected, as Spark was recently given a consent to erect a 16m cell tower. With this comes a lot of concern around 5G, and the additional 6m added to the tower, with cell towers usually only 10m high. 

This impending rollout has seen some local residents worried about the health implications, with some even going so far as to claim it will “kill us” on local community pages. While there doesn't appear to be any scientific evidence to back this claim up, scientists agree that recent research confirms that current exposure limits are right to remain where they are. There is a fear that 5G will bring increased RF radiation exposure. The World Health Organisation has classified non-ionising RF Radiation as being “possibly carcinogenic to humans.” To put this into perspective, other things on this list with the same label include kava, lead, petrol, Asian pickled vegetables and carpentry. 

Over the last 60 years, a large number of studies have been done into the health implications of RF radiation. This latest rollout of 5G sees the same research still applicable, and national health standards, which dictate exposure levels, are to remain as they are.   

A comment was made by Professor Keith Petrie, from the University of Auckland, “The majority of studies show that there is no relationship between weak electromagnetic field exposure and symptoms or health. Some people report that they are sensitive to the electromagnetic fields used in mobile phones and wifi. Studies show that such people do experience symptoms, but only when they know they are being exposed. In double-blind conditions where they are exposed without knowing whether the electromagnetic field is on or off, no reliable effects are apparent.”

5G is expected to have a positive effect on productivity and economic growth, with claims that 5G networks could increase the capability of current networks by up to 40 times. However, one local Hāwea resident has pointed out that 5G seems redundant for Hāwea given that cell phone signal in the area is patchy and internet connections have been majorly disrupted since fibre was installed. 

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