Almost a year on from Spark trying to install a cell tower in Havelock North, a group of residents admit the current sign covered and grass uprooted site is "ugly" but is here to stay until the issue is resolved.
Stephen Fookes, who lives right next to the cell tower site and has become the spokesman for the group, says they remain totally opposed to having a cell tower in this location.
"It [the current site] is uglier than a cell tower.
"I know it's ugly, we think it's ugly, no one wants it there but the fact is that until Spark address the reality of the opposition of residents, they've got to stay here. It's a message to Spark if they resolve it, we'll have the signs removed within 20 seconds."
The issue was first raised last September 2019 when Spark attempted to install the cell tower on Te Mata Rd adjacent to 1 Durham Dr.
A group of residents vowed to oppose the cell tower as they were not properly consulted, they say.
The proposed tower would be a 4G site but like all Spark sites, will be capable of being upgraded to 5G. Spark has no immediate plans to do this, a Spark corporate relations manager, Samantha Smith, said.
The resident's group and Spark have met over many months to discuss the proposed cell tower.
Smith said while they are "permitted to build the 4G site regardless" they have been working to find a solution "that meets the needs of the residents and wider community".
They are now "considering next steps".
"We're not going to walk away from this," Fookes said.
The group say about 12 alternative cell tower sites in Havelock North were proposed by Hastings District Council and residents to Spark over the past year.
"They have been offered all these different sites that are away from people but service the area just as well," Fookes said.
Hastings District Council group manager planning and regulatory services, John O'Shaughnessy, said the council had suggested several alternative sites about a year ago but understand they were rejected as they did not meet Spark's technology requirements.
"Council understands residents are concerned about the cellphone tower, but these matters are governed by national regulations, and Spark requires a site that meets their specifications."
He said the council encourages residents to keep talking to Spark.
Given the alternate sites they have proposed, the group say there is nothing Spark can do to convince them the cell tower should go on the current site.
Fookes says Spark discounted the residents' site suggestions early on and the council's suggestions in April, so the group asked for the raw data of what Spark had measured in radio frequency at each site.
Spark sent 47 pages to the group, which a radio frequency engineer looked for them and said it is not a document that contains raw data.
The group have again asked for the raw data and now the two parties are at a stalemate.
Smith said Spark has provided residents with radio frequency design which explains the site choice and analysis of the alternative sites proposed by residents.
"Our past experience of working with communities is that there are sometimes other options that could work; however, an in-depth analysis has shown the site is the optimal location to increase data capacity where it is needed in Havelock North.
"The data sits within an engineering modelling tool, so providing 'raw data' on its own would be meaningless without the modelling."
Spark has offered to have its radio frequency engineers sit down with the engineers who are working with the residents, to go through the document.
"This would also help us understand what the residents believe is missing. "
Smith said Spark has an existing cell tower servicing Havelock North which is at its capacity.
"It's extremely common for cell towers to be built in residential areas because their function is to provide coverage where people live, work and play," she said.
The main concern of the group is a lack of "informed consent" and initial communication and consultation with residents by Spark.
The group are also concerned about the aesthetics of a cell tower and the possibility of health risks.
Fleur Black lives on the other side of Havelock North but has been working with the group as she has previous experience trying to fight the installation of a cell tower by a kindergarten in Auckland about 10 years ago.
"There's so much research and science coming out all the time now that is showing harmful, biological effects from this.
"There are more people becoming more informed and more educated on it," she said.
"The residents have had a range of questions centred around the health and safety of cell towers, and Spark has provided extensive scientific information on this," Smith said.