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New regulations for telecommunications equipment

Hon Trevor Mallard
Minister for the Environment

6 March 2008 Media Statement

New regulations for telecommunications equipment

New regulations governing the size of and noise from telecommunications equipment such as antennas, masts and roadside cabinets have now been approved and will be drafted, Environment Minister Trevor Mallard said today.

"The regulations, known as national environmental standards, will allow faster and more cost effective installation of telecommunications equipment because they standardise the rules across the country so there is a level playing field. This is likely to speed up the rollout of telecommunications services, such as high-speed internet and mobile phones, to a greater number of people and businesses and provide greater choice to consumers.

"The Labour-led government recognises the importance of facilitating broadband take-up and rollout around the country for our communities and also for New Zealand's transformation into a high-wage innovative export led-economy," Trevor Mallard said.

"There is currently considerable variation between territorial authority district plans in how they control the installation of antennas and cabinets on roadsides. This makes the process time-consuming, expensive and inconsistent for telecommunications companies seeking to install or expand services across several local authority areas.

"Local district plan controls will remain for any proposed locations that are near areas that have heritage or high amenity values or areas that local councils specifically want to protect. It is appropriate that any values identified by a community through the local plan process continue to be managed by that community."

The national environmental standards for telecommunications facilities will allow for certain types of low impact telecommunications infrastructure to be installed – within strict maximum size and noise limits – and without the requirement to go through resource consent applications. The exceptions to this are any proposed locations for the equipment that are near areas that have heritage or high amenity values or areas that local councils have identified as needing special protection.

The national environmental standards cover:
- the erection of roadside cabinets (which can contain equipment for telephones, cable television and for internet access).
- the addition of antennas to existing structures such as light poles on roadsides or verges.
- radiofrequency fields emitted from antennas and noise levels from roadside cabinets.

"The cabinets and antennas are considered to be low-impact telecommunications facilities. Activities that are more significant will need to obtain resource consent from the local council before they can be installed," said Trevor Mallard.

"For instance, a telecommunications company may need to apply for and be granted planning permission (resource consent) by a local authority before installing a free standing mast, antennas or cabinets outside of the road. Likewise, a proposed new cell phone tower would have to go through a stringent process of planning approval if the local district plan requires it.

"The standards also include a limit on the number of roadside cabinets allowed in one specific location as well as a minimum separation distance to other structures to ensure any potential for cluttering to occur is avoided."

Several changes have been made to the standards following consideration of submissions from the public. These include:
- Strengthening links to district plan provisions where specific values such as historic heritage and amenity have been identified as a local issue.
- Reducing the potential for street clutter through increased minimum separation distances between cabinets.
- Aligning the noise standards with the new Standards New Zealand standard.
- Future proofing the standards by not specifying specific types of panel antennas and including allowances for dish antennas.
- Limiting extensions to roadside structures to one extension only - to prevent incremental height creep.

"The size limitations for antennas and cabinets contained within the proposed regulations are more stringent than 54 per cent and 82 per cent respectively of those that already apply in existing local government plans. This emphasises the point that the standards are intended to provide a level playing field across the country as opposed to providing new development rights in excess of what already exists," Trevor Mallard said.

The standards will now be drafted into regulation and will take effect 28 days after they are gazetted.

Details around maximum size limits and other restrictions are set out in the attached Appendix A. For more information, see also the cabinet paper and regulatory impact statement at

Appendix A: Proposed National Environmental Standards for Telecommunications (PDF)


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