Irate residents opposed to a satellite ground station in their backyard just south of Whangārei demanded the agency behind the venture take their plans for a base to communicate with spacecraft elsewhere.
As expected, there was plenty of fireworks at the Ruakākā Recreation Centre, where Southland's development and tourism agency Great South held a public meeting on Tuesday evening to inform locals about the proposed station.
About 150 people were in attendance, including Whangārei mayor Sheryl Mai, Bream Bay ward councillors Shelley Deeming and Ken Couper, and Whangārei list MP Dr Shane Reti.
The agency wants to build a mixture of large and small antennas between 3m and 6m high with native trees surrounding the site on Sandford Rd in Ruakākā, next to State Highway 1.
Angry residents of Sandford Rd believe the 9ha of land earmarked for the satellite station, owned by One Tree Pt-based truck and digger driver Brian Nash, was unsuitable for satellite dishes, given their close proximity to a state highway and the local school.
They are also unhappy Great South consulted only a select few people on Sandford Rd and organisations in the wider Ruakākā area while others learned of the plan through neighbours or via social media.
The agency's team at the public meeting consisted of chief executive Graham Budd, general manager strategic projects Steve Canny, strategic project adviser Chantelle Subritzky, engineering and ground segment station manager Robert McNeill, ground segment manager Rafael Kargren and communications manager Emma Carle.
Questions around a lack of consultation, health risks and exploration of other sites in Northland were directed at Budd, who tried his best to explain but had to refer technical queries to others in his team.
Long-term Sandford Rd resident Ronald Taylor said while he was not opposed to a satellite station, he was opposed to one being built close to the Ruakākā School, the state highway, and in an area designed by the Whangārei District Council (WDC) as rural production.
Budd said Great South would own the land but satellite companies would own the equipment and data received which were for civilian, not military use.
He wasn't prepared to name those companies, citing commercial sensitivity.
The proposed satellite station has the potential to support moon missions such as those planned by Nasa, as well as link up with existing data centres like the Hawaiki cable, he said.
A Bream Bay resident questioned him as to how Great South would know how Nasa would use data and what stopped satellite companies from selling the dishes two years after setting them up on Sandford Rd.
McNeill said there was a legal framework that needed to be adhered to in terms of transmission and use of radio signals.
Great South said it has assessed 20 sites across Northland for a satellite station but when Budd was pressed to name those areas, he said he couldn't answer.
Dr Reti asked whether Great South would seek voluntary public notification of any resource consent application it lodged with WDC, to which Budd replied his team would be perfectly happy to consult the community.
The mayor said although she was not a planner, the planning process would be followed to the letter and if Great South's application could not be given consent, it would be declined.
An attendee proposed a show of hands for and against plans for a satellite station but was told the resource consent process was the best avenue to look into the issue.
Commenting after the meeting, Budd said Great South did have an understanding of the views the local community held prior to Tuesday's meet and that unfortunately people have fixed thoughts that would not change.
"We wanted to give them a forum to share our views. It was a successful forum, even with a bit of tension."