Why is this work happening now?

    Hunter Water is planning to demolish the Merewether 2 high level water tank located at 129 Scenic Drive, Merewether (off Hickson Street) as part of a project to reduce ongoing maintenance requirements and improve reliability of water supply to our customers. 

    Removing the tank, which was constructed in 1955, also reduces safety risks for personnel who need to access the structure to maintain it. Hunter Water has implemented a number of operational changes within the network so the tank can now be decommissioned. 

    The new communications tower will provide an alternative mounting structure for the telecommunications equipment (radio antennas and communication dish) currently installed on the tank. 

    Why is the communications equipment needed?

    Hunter Water operates communications equipment at more than 700 locations across the Lower Hunter region, which enables us to efficiently manage the water and wastewater services we provide to the community.

    The existing equipment on the water tank at the Hickson Street site provides radio communications coverage essential for the monitoring and control of the water delivery and the wastewater transportation networks. 

    A new 300mm microwave dish will provide a communications link to the Burwood Wastewater Treatment Works to improve communications to that site and provide ongoing cost savings. This work would be completed as part of a separate project.

    When will the water tank be demolished?

    We are planning to demolish the water tank in early 2022. Prior to demolishing the tank, we need to install a temporary timber pole so we can relocate the existing telecommunications equipment to the pole while the tank is being demolished and the new tower constructed.

    How will removal of the existing tank impact my water pressure?

    The removal of the water tank will not impact on current water pressure or supply to our customers. The tank forms part of the water reticulation system that supplies over 300 customers in Merewether and Merewether Heights. We are already implementing operational changes within the network to improve reliability of supply by managing pressure through pumped flow and a control valve. These changes make the tank redundant.

    Why is the tower taller than the existing water tank?

    The monopole is 23 metres tall, which is approximately 9 metres taller than the existing water tank. This extra height enables a communications link via a 300mm microwave dish to the Burwood Wastewater Treatment Works (WWTW) to improve communications to that site and provide ongoing cost savings.

    Why can’t Hunter Water co-locate their communications equipment on the existing telecommunications tower?

    The existing telecommunications tower located on the Hickson Street site houses equipment for Telstra, Vodafone and Optus. The option of co-locating our equipment on this tower was explored. Unfortunately, this tower is at capacity and lower than the required height of the proposed tower, meaning a complete upgrade or replacement would be needed.

    What other options were considered?

    The development of the proposal considered a number of options, including retaining the existing water tank and removing the tank with various system reconfigurations to ensure continued water supply service to customers. 

    The tank has low capacity and would require a major upgrade to ensure continuity of supply into the future. It is also highly susceptible to corrosion given its material and location. Demolishing the tank and implementing operational changes was our preferred option, as it removes the ongoing need to maintain the ageing water tank and improves the reliability of supply to our customers. It also eliminates the safety risks for personnel who need to access the structure to maintain it. Continuing to maintain the ageing tank would be an added cost burden on our customers in the long term.     

    The preferred location of the new tower was selected following consideration of existing site constraints, constructability, space availability, operational access, and feedback received from adjoining landholders during our early consultation.

    What is the planning approval process?

    Hunter Water is undertaking this project as development permitted without consent under clause 114 of the State Environmental Planning Policy (Infrastructure) 2007 (ISEPP) and is the proponent and determining authority for the work under Division 5.1 of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979. Development consent from council is not required.

    What consultation has taken place?

    Targeted consultation for the proposed communications tower has taken place with key stakeholders and landholders in accordance with requirements of the State Environmental Planning Policy (Infrastructure) 2007 (ISEPP). We have consulted with:

    • City of Newcastle 
    • Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (DPIE) – National Parks and Wildlife Service
    • Subsidence Advisory NSW
    • Adjoining landholders and Hickson Street residents
    • NSW Rural Fire Service.

    The Review of Environmental Factors was on exhibition in August 2021 to offer the wider community an opportunity to comment on the proposal.

    What is the purpose of the Review of Environmental Factors?

    The Review of Environmental Factors (REF) considers the potential impacts of the construction and operation of the proposal, including impacts to biodiversity, nearby residents and people who use and access the site. The REF also identifies actions to avoid or mitigate identified impacts.

    What are the environmental impacts?

    As outlined in the Review of Environmental Factors (REF), the environmental impacts resulting from the proposal are considered to be minor. The tower will be located wholly within Hunter Water land. Around half of the site consists of the same vegetation found in the adjoining Glenrock State Conservation Area. Some vegetation would need to be removed, however no threatened species or threatened ecological communities would be impacted.

    Following construction of the tower, the disturbed areas will be restored and stabilised with clean mulch and revegetated if appropriate with native shrubs and ground covers (tubestock) to be consistent with surround.

    The construction work would be managed in accordance with the requirements stated in the REF and would involve establishing environmental controls including delineating exclusion areas, water management controls, erosion and sedimentation controls to mitigate any potential impacts to the environment.

    What are the visual impacts?

    The proposed tower consists of a 23-metre tall slimline concrete monopole, plus headframe arrangement to mount the antennas. It has a six metre by six metre concrete slab foundation surrounded by a security fence. The structure will be a neutral colour to help it blend in with the surrounding environment and reduce the visual impact.

    The tower would be visible to nearby residents and people who use the surrounding area. The tower may also be visible from parts of Burwood Beach, Glenrock State Conservation Area, south to Dudley and north to Bar Beach. However, with the removal of the visually obtrusive water tank, the project would have an overall positive visual impact.

    What are the construction impacts?

    Construction is expected to start in February 2022, after the busy school holiday period, to help minimise impacts on site use. The demolition of the existing water tank will take around three to four weeks to complete. Around two months after the tank is removed, the communications tower would be constructed in its place. Construction of the tower is expected to take around three weeks, weather permitting. 

    During this time, nearby residents and recreational users of the site may experience minor impacts including intermittent construction noise, visual changes, reduced parking near the work site, and vehicle and pedestrian disruptions. During the work, access to the Hickson Street walking track would be maintained or alternative access provided when required.  The other walking track access points off Hickson Street would remain open.

    We aim to minimise impacts during construction and demolition works and will work with the adjoining landholders (National Parks and Wildlife Service and City of Newcastle) and neighbouring residents to reduce disruption as much as possible. 

    Is this project part of the 5G roll out?

    No. The antennas on the proposed tower are not 5G. They are for Ultra High Frequency (UHF) radio communications as well as two microwave dishes.

    The telecommunication installations will comply with all regulatory requirements with regards to electromagnetic energy (EME). EME exposure limits are set by the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency.