Tensions are rising across the Waipā district about a proposed cell tower in Pirongia.
More than 100 people rallied on Sunday to voice their concerns and a petition has been signed by more than 2000 people.
Residents are pushing Spark to consider other locations for the 20m tower, due to be constructed near the corner of Beechey St and McClure St.
The community group plans to take the issue to Parliament in hopes of changing Government regulations.
Waipā District Council is supporting residents, asking Spark to put plans on hold.
The council has employed a specialist planner to work with residents and Spark to identify alternative sites.
But finding a new site is not that simple, according to Spark spokesperson Arwen Vant.
"Telecommunication facilities need to be placed where people and businesses can benefit from them the most," she says.
"That means sites need to be in areas where people live and work – urban and residential areas."
Vant says the choice of site is not taken lightly, with factors including area and location of high digital use, radio frequency compliance, civil requirements, network design elements, topography and terrain and planning consents.
"The proposed site in Pirongia was carefully chosen to provide the best possible connectivity to the community, and it may be challenging to find another site," Vant says. "There is demand in the community for better cell phone coverage and faster internet, despite the fact that some locals may have misgivings."
Waipā District Council district growth and regulatory group manager Wayne Allan says there is little the council can do if the tower meets national Government standards and district plan restrictions.
National regulations mean cell phone towers can be built on council road reserves, as long as standards are met.
They can also be built on private land if the land owner agrees and the District Plan is complied with.
"This is what's happened in Pirongia," Allan says. "The planned tower is going on private property because the landowner has agreed to it. Apart from restricting things like height, council can't do much about it."
"National environmental standards trump the powers of councils to decide where cell phone towers go."
Pirongia resident Jane Shaw wants the Government standards to change and will be taking the issue to MP Barbara Kuriger.
"According to Government regulations introduced in 2016, if the land was classed as rural then the tower would not be allowed to be constructed within 50m of a residential building," Shaw says. The proposed Spark location is less than 20m from residential buildings.
"It appears that our paddocks are better protected than our communities."
Shaw says communities should be protected from cell towers.
"Pirongia is lucky to have the opportunity to fight this, however, we don't want other communities to go through what we are going through." Another issue is the lack of community involvement or consultation, Shaw says.
"Big businesses should not be allowed to make decisions that potentially adversely affect the health, environment, outlook and property value of a community without their involvement or consultation."
MP Barbara Kuriger says she supports the need for a new cell tower in Pirongia.
"Most concerns I get from communities are that they don't have cell towers and coverage," she says.
Barbara says she is open to meeting with members of the community, Waipa District Council and Spark to work on the issue of site choice.
"I'm happy to hear any concerns from Pirongia residents."
Regarding residents' health concerns about cell towers, Kuriger points to Ministry of Health guidelines.
"The Ministry of Health has provided assurances that the level of signal is not a health concern."