A Raglan diesel technician blames the Te Uku wind farm for the sudden loss of mobile phone coverage at his nearby workshop.
For the previous three years Desmond Downs has been able to leave his phone by the kitchen window at his firm’s premises in Matakotea Rd, Te Uku, just off State Highway 23.
But since construction of 28 massive towers at the wind farm began in November, network availability – which had previously been marginal – has completely disappeared.
“We could always leave our phone in the window of the kitchen and have one bar of coverage,” Mr Downs said.
“After the wind farm went up our phone batteries on two identical phones started going flat much sooner. It was the phones `searching for network’ so often.
“I am not someone who kicks up a stink about progress, and Telecom don’t guarantee coverage here anyway. But it is only since the wind farm went up that this has happened. I can’t think of anything else.”
It was a condition of resource consent for the Te Uku wind farm that if, within six months of it becoming fully operational, there were adverse effects on communications remedial action would have to be taken.
Raglan Community Board chairman Rodger Gallagher, a former Telecom engineer, said wind farm interference with mobile phone coverage was a known problem.
But in this case he suspected it was not electromagnetic interference, but simply that the massive steel towers were blocking the signal.
“An Australian study found that this does happen, but isn’t usually a problem as the mobile phones switch to the next cell site. In the Te Uku case there is no `next’ cell site to switch to.”
Telecom coverage maps show no mobile coverage in Te Uku village, but on higher areas around it. A Telecom spokesman said it was extremely unlikely that the wind farm was causing degradation of Telecom’s mobile service.
The Raglan mobile site is about 10km away from the wind farm and 200m lower.
He said performance statistics from the mobile site suggested no impact from the construction of the wind farm.
Mr Gallagher drove around the district and noted mobile coverage was now absent in some places maps suggested it should be.
Meanwhile wind farm operator Meridian said this was the first it had heard of the problem.
“Extensive investigation work is undertaken by specialists to determine what, if any, impact a turbine may have,” spokeswoman Michelle Brooker said.
Anyone having problems should call Meridian on 0800 TE UKU.
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