A Tauranga neighbourhood is in an uproar after it discovered that it will soon be overlooked by a giant radio aerial.
They discovered too late that instead of amateur radio aerials having a maximum height of 9 metres in residential areas, a successful appeal has hoisted the height to 20m.
The appeal by the Tauranga Emergency Communications Group and the New Zealand Association of Radio Transmitters was not site specific and applied across all the city.
They objected to rules in the council's proposed new City Plan that would have restricted new aerials to 9m. Older aerials around the city that pre-dated the current plan reached up to 16m.
The first that Veda Glen residents heard about the Environment Court decision was when Pyes Pa radio ham Brian Heywood notified neighbours about his intention to erect a 20m high radio mast in his backyard. It would be topped by a flat rack of antennae measuring 13m long by nearly 15m wide.
By the time Mr Heywood spoke to residents, Judge Jeff Smith had delivered his interim decision to partly allow the appeal, reducing the 26m height sought by the radio hams to 20m.
The news came as a big shock to one of the residents closest to proposed mast, Janet O'Shea of Lochay Place, Veda Glen.
She quickly organised a protest meeting last Saturday attended by 50 residents. "We were a very unhappy group of people. What irks all of us was that no one knew anything about this until it was too late."
The irony was that their subdivision had a covenant to stop aerials protruding into views. Mr Heywood's home on a kiwifruit orchard sat beside one of the boundaries of Veda Glen. Mrs O'Shea said the mast and antennae would be visible from all over the subdivision and from points further afield like Aquinas College and the historic Te Maunga battleground. "It will be like a beacon."
She was also concerned by the wider ramifications of Judge Smith's decision because it meant that radio hams would be allowed to erect 20m high masts as of right, without any consent needed from neighbours.
"It will impact not just on us, but the entire community. It's a massive decision. I would ask the question as to whether or not every impact of such a structure has been taken into consideration on his decision making."
Another neighbour Anne Porter said they would look straight at the aerial from their living room. "He has total disregard for the people around here ... he can do what the hell he likes and stuff everyone else, it's not right in my view."
Mr Heywood, a retired radio engineer, responded that the appeal was on behalf of all Tauranga's amateur radio operators. There were 90 in the club and he represented the emergency communications group in the appeal.
Although he could see his neighbours' points of view, he expected that, to some people, his new aerial would be a seven-day wonder and three months down the line people would accept it as a normal part of the neighbourhood environment. "It is a case of getting used to it."
Mr Heywood's plan was to build a mast with a circumference of 230mm at 9m and tapering to 115mm at 20m. "The higher aerials go, the smaller they look."
He stressed the importance of amateur radio operators to search and rescue. They provided all the radio communications and members put in repeaters on the nearest hill top so searchers could talk to each other and with search headquarters.
Mr Heywood said the way some people were talking about it, it sounded like the Eiffel Tower. He asked residents to wait and see what the finished aerial looked like. It would be a mono-pole without guy wires. He said submissions in opposition to the City Plan were publicly advertised.