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Petitioning to keep us 5G free

As 5G technology is set to roll out in Gisborne soon, a high-energy debate is under way about how safe the technology is. Sophie Rishworth spoke to the working group who want to keep Gisborne 5G free . . .

A Gisborne-initiated petition * to put a moratorium on 5G is part of a growing campaign around New Zealand.

5G — which stands for Fifth Generation Wireless — is not available in this country yet but Vodafone has said it will start to roll it out in December.

Telecommunications companies promote it as being smarter, more efficient and as much as 100 times faster than 4G, which is what is used now.

New cellphone towers and antenna have started to go up around this district — for example the one by the bowling club on Ormond Rd a couple of months ago, and another one on Bulli Street around the same time.

Residents who have the towers put up outside their properties have found out very quickly there is little they can do about it.

Riverdale couple David File and Jenny Christophers objected to Spark NZ erecting network cabinets and a 12-metre cellphone and GPS antenna outside their home in June.

“The only thing that came out of that was yet another phone call from Spark NZ more or less saying, ‘well it is still going ahead and it’s a done deal no matter what’.”

Gisborne District Council also has its hands tied, because as long as these new antenna and poles meet with the National Environment Standards (NES) for Telecommunications Facilities 2016 then it goes through. The NES 2016 was brought in by central government on January 1, 2017 and replaced the NESTF 2008. **

A Gisborne working group of about six people want to raise awareness of potential health and security dangers of 5G.

A Facebook page called “5G Free Gisborne” has almost 1600 members. It was started by Jennie Brown — a teacher and mother who is deeply concerned about the health effects these towers can have on the community, and especially children.

“Other communities around the world are restricting the placement of towers near schools and other community centres,” she says. “Why in New Zealand are there no such restrictions? The health of our tamariki is paramount.”

Other members of the working group include “concerned citizen” Marcus Williams and Gisborne chiropractor Laura Jackson. The group is using the Facebook page to raise awareness about what they say are serious health effects, security and privacy threats of 5G wireless technology.

Of particular concern is the microwave/millimetre radiation that everyone will be exposed to when 5G goes live, says Ms Jackson.

“We are not anti-technology. We are concerned citizens demanding safe technology.

“People just assume that the Government wouldn’t implement anything that was deemed unsafe, yet there are thousands of independent peer-reviewed scientific studies that show harmful biological and environmental effects.”

Ms Jackson cites a study by Physicians for Safe Technology executive director Cindy Russell — a plastic surgeon from California, who completed her residency training at Stanford University Medical Center.

'Biggest problem having to upgrade 4G phones'Dr Russell said it was argued the addition of this added high frequency 5G radiation to an already complex mix of lower frequencies would contribute to a negative public health outcome from both physical and mental health perspectives. She is particularly concerned about health effects of millimetre waves on skin, eyes, heart rate, the immune system and DNA. ***

In 2015, 250 scientists from 41 countries called on the United Nations and World Health Organisation to offer protection to people from non-ionising electromagnetic field (which 5G is) exposure. Their appeal said damage went well beyond the human race, with growing evidence of harmful effects to both plant and animal life.

Earlier this year Brussels, the capital of Belgium and home to the European Union headquarters, moved to halt the transition to 5G. Minister for the Environment Alain Maron said there was no rush to bring 5G to Brussels until there was more certainty about the effect 5G waves had on the health of the people living there.

More than 175,000 people around the world have signed an international appeal to stop 5G on earth and in space. This petition can be found at www.5gspaceappeal.org.

5G working group member Marcus Williams said it was a global crisis.

“5G originated in the development of military weapons so it is up to the Government to be responsible with this technology.”

Mr Williams said it was concerning that six out of the 10 members of the NES advisory committee were representatives from telecommunication industries.

“The enormous amount of research that has been done since 1999 has not been taken into consideration.”

He says everyone needs to read this article at https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/we-have-no-reason-to-believe-5g-is-safe/

Mrs Brown said the NES 2016 gave corporate companies free rein to put up as many radio frequency towers as they liked, wherever they wanted.

“Yet we need consent to build a fence on our own property. Something is wrong with this process and the law needs to be challenged.”

GDC only gets advised before one is put up, so cannot say how many are planned for the future or where. That is something known only by the telecommunications companies.

Mrs Jackson said right now people had a choice to stand up and say no — the petition to push for a referendum was one way to do that.

As soon as 5G was rolled out, there would be no choice, she said.

They wanted to create an awareness, and to educate people, she said.

“Right now we have a chance.”

* The Gisborne petition can be found at: www.parliament.nz/en/pb/petitions/document/PET_91620/petition-of-jennie-brown-stop-5g-until-independent-testing

** www.health.govt.nz/our-work/environmental-health/non-ionising-radiation/radiofrequency-field-exposure-standard

*** 5G wireless telecommunications expansion: Public health and environmental implications. Environ Res 2018; 165:484-495. https://zero5g.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/5-G-wireless-telecommunications-expansion-Public-health-and-environmental-implications-Cindy-L.-russell.pdf


Vodafone head of external affairs Rich Llewellyn said the health and safety of customers and communities was an absolute priority for Vodafone.

“5G, like all other mobile technologies such as 3G and 4G, operates well within the safety limits set out by international EMF exposure guidelines, which incorporate substantial safety margins, to deliver protection for everyone against health risks.”

Spark spokesman Arwen Vant said Spark did not have plans for any new sites in Gisborne at this time.

2degrees has not made any announcements regarding building a 5G network.

“Regarding our existing network, there are no significant extensions to the network planned in Gisborne in the near future, though in the short to mid term there may be small changes like boosting the capacity of existing sites if there is increased usage by residents. In the summer time, to meet demand, we do use temporary cell towers for events like Rhythm and Vines,” said 2degrees spokeswoman Katherine Cornish.


Auckland University senior lecturer David Krofcheck has a Master’s in science and a PhD in physics. He describes 5G as “a much wider pipe to send data from one place to another”.

The biggest problem he could see with 5G was having to spend $1000 to upgrade from a 4G phone.

As far as security concerns go, Dr Krofcheck said we were already pretty well in play regarding this with the current generation of smartphones, which he describes as “pocket supercomputers”.

“I don’t see how it could get much worse than it is now. Our data is already sold.

“I see it as a technological step forward. These other concerns like privacy are very important but I think the technology will enable many more beneficial processes.”

These include surgical techniques, instantaneous data and other high-tech endeavours like self-driving cars — “which seem scary but I have seen them in my hometown of Pittsburgh”.

Dr Krofcheck was born in the US and moved to New Zealand with his Kiwi wife in 1995, when he took up his job at the University of Auckland.

“There are things we can’t even imagine right now. Once you have a tool (like 5G) then smart people come along with clever ideas of how to use that tool.”

Of course, Dr Krofcheck could not rule out someone using 5G capabilities for harm against humans but there were a lot of things like that, he said.

Another popular talking point was that 5G was originally developed by the military for weaponry. Dr Krofcheck said 5G technology was multi-use, but he would not hold its origin against it.

“That is not what it is being used for now. It is a big pipe for information back and forth.”

The question of what the risks were if the maximum capacity of 300GHZ was used was a physics problem with a bit of biology.

“The 300GHz is low frequency energy-wise for non-ionising radiation,” he said.

“I did some calculations. Sunlight has a much higher frequency. There is more energy coming from the sun in visible light and ultra violet light.”

Dr Krofcheck said 300GHz was 100,000 to 1 million times less energy than an electron bond in the human body.

“It’s minute. These high-frequency radio waves do not penetrate human skin or bone — I know that is a concern for people, but there is too much evidence against it.

“High-frequency radiation has been around for a long time. I am not concerned at all.

“You may see more towers around town and people may not like that, but you have to ask is the benefit of being able to pass information quickly from one phone or laptop to another worth it?”

The Science Media Centre (www.sciencemediacentre.co.nz) approached experts to answer questions about what to expect from 5G technology.

Massey University communication engineering and networks senior lecturer Dr Faraz Hasan said security issues would always remain associated with connectivity in general.

“The severity of these issues increases if connectivity is ‘wireless’. Because we are interconnecting not just our laptops and mobile phones, but also vehicles, medical professionals, livestock, even our power grid with 5G, any breach in security may have far-reaching implications.”

EMF Services director Martin Gledhill, who declared a conflict of interest as he works for clients in the telecommunications industry, had this to say: “5G is just a new application of radio technology, and the knowledge gained from some 60 years of research is as applicable to 5G as any other form of radio technology. The radio frequencies to be used by 5G are similar to those that have been used for several decades.”

University of Auckland professor of health psychology Keith Petrie said worries about new technology causing health problems were not new.

“Throughout history, there are many examples of the introduction of new technology being followed by new symptoms and illness.

“There was a fear when telephones were introduced that they caused an increase in aural pressure, giddiness and pain.

Similarly with radios, that radio signals caused an increase in nausea. There were also fears that steam trains caused problems in the spine because the human body was not designed to go so fast. Following the introduction of visual display units in Scandinavia there were reports of skin problems and other symptoms.

“The internet has now brought a new dimension to worries about technology and unsubstantiated health worries can be spread instantly to those with similar concerns.”

MetService systems engineering manager Bruce Hartley said some frequency bands may affect either satellite communications, weather satellite data collection, or both.

“The impacts on satellite communications, earth-to-space and/or space-to-earth, are under the management of telecommunications service providers, and not a direct concern to MetService. Even if a communication link is affected, there are other technology or band usage options that can be applied to mitigate the issue. It is the impacts on weather satellite data collection that are a significant issue and of concern to MetService. This is because there is the potential for spurious emissions from equipment using 5G (eg transmitters such as cell towers, cell phones and smart devices) to “leak” out of the approved band(s) and into adjacent bands that are important for weather forecasting.”

IS 5G SAFE?: Marcus Williams, Jennie Brown (holding daughter Florence) and Laura Jackson are part of a working group trying to keep Gisborne 5G free. They want independent studies to show it is not harmful to people — studies that are not funded by telecommunications companies. They have started a petition and want to create awareness. Picture by Rebecca Grunwell
FEELING LET DOWN: Riverdale residents David File and Jenny Christophers feel the council let them down over Spark NZ putting up four large network cabinets and a 12-metre antenna outside their property (see following picture in this gallery). They were pictured here outside their home with granddaughter Ada Lasenby and Jake before it happened. The antenna went up on the verge just in front of them, and the network cabinets where they are standing. They feel it will affect their house price if they sell. Picture by Paul Rickard
Picture by Liam Clayton

  1. Tony says:

    “Auckland University senior lecturer David Krofcheck has a Master’s in science and a PhD in physics.”

    “The question of what the risks were if the maximum capacity of 300GHZ was used was a physics problem with a bit of biology.

    “The 300GHz is low frequency energy-wise for non-ionising radiation,” he said.

    “I did some calculations. Sunlight has a much higher frequency. There is more energy coming from the sun in visible light and ultra violet light.”

    Dr Krofcheck said 300GHz was 100,000 to 1 million times less energy than an electron bond in the human body.

    “It’s minute. These high-frequency radio waves do not penetrate human skin or bone — I know that is a concern for people, but there is too much evidence against it.”

    Right, so there’s one independent opinion. Has anyone pointed this out to the “5G ThinkTank” or can this opinion be disregarded because he might have a cell phone with Spark or Vodafone?

  2. Tommy Wilkie says:

    Embrace 5G as the future is in need of it.
    Technology advances to suit world needs. Do not listen to the negative comments from negative people, some of whom make money from scaring you.
    I know what I am talking about as I have 35 years in the industry building networks in seven countries.