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Ex-teacher risks arrest and being labelled a NIMBY


Megan Doherty

John Anderson on the balcony of his Weston home as ActewAGL workers, background, work to erect the power pole.

John Anderson on the balcony of his Weston home as ActewAGL workers, background, work to erect the power pole. Photo: Graham Tidy

A 69-year-old retired school teacher risked arrest on Wednesday as he staged a sit-in in front of ActewAGL machinery trying to erect a new, taller power pole in his quiet Weston street.

John Anderson, a former deputy principal of Dickson College, said he was hardly a militant but saw red as the new concrete pole started to be put in place across the road from his home of 28 years in Leist Street.

Mr Anderson said he knew he would be written off as a NIMBY but he was incensed by ''bad neighbour'' ActewAGL, which had erected the taller pole without consultation, creating ''visual pollution'' and marring his view across to Cooleman Ridge and the Brindabellas.

''I just thought it was important to take a stand and my initial impulse was, 'Go and do an old-fashioned, 1968-style sit-in','' he said.

Mr Anderson and his wife Jackie, 68, were proposing to tag-team, with Mrs Anderson planning to go down after her husband was arrested and continue the protest. ''You're going to have this phallic symbol as soon as you walk out the door,'' she said of the new pole.

However, Mr Anderson's sit-in lasted only about 20 minutes as ActewAGL staff on-site called police. Two police officers arrived just before 2pm and convinced Mr Anderson that the issue was not worth him getting a criminal record.

''We're not stupid,'' he said. ''I don't need the blood pressure, I don't need the grief, but someone has to take a stand and say, 'What you are doing is unreasonable, uncivil and it's visual pollution'.''

''Even if it makes them stop and consult on this sort of thing,'' Mrs Anderson added.

ActewAGL did send a letter dated April 4 to residents telling them their power supply would be interrupted from 8.30am to 3.30pm. The interruption was ''required for maintenance or upgrades to the electricity network'', the letter read.

There was no mention of a pole being replaced.

ActewAGL general manager network services Robert Atkin said two 9.5-metre-high poles in the street were replaced with two 11-metre-high poles to ''comply with the current regulations regarding the minimum safe distance required between the roof of a house and electricity conductors''.

ActewAGL had ''provided Mr Anderson, and all other land-holders affected by the outage, with the information required under relevant legislation. Prior to undertaking network operations, such as pole replacements or other maintenance of its network, ActewAGL is required to provide the land-holder, on whose land the pole is located or the maintenance is being carried out, with a notice under the Utilities Act,'' Mr Atkin said. The poles were not on Mr Anderson's land.

Mr Anderson said ActewAGL should be more explicit when informing residents so they could seek answers and inquire whether other alternatives - such as underground lines - were possible.

''There was no advice, no consultation about the infrastructure, how high the pole would be, what effect it might have on you or whether it was negotiable. None of the things you'd expect of a good corporate citizen,'' he said.

19 comments so far

  • If this chap doesn't want ACTEW to comply with the law he should try to get the law changed and not expect ACTEW to break for law for his convenience.

    Date and time
    April 18, 2013, 8:55AM
    • Let's be clear, despite his assertions to the contrary, this is just plain old garden variety middle class tut tutting NIMBYism.

      Date and time
      April 18, 2013, 8:58AM
      • Really NIMBYism....really ACTEW and laws...I can't extend my house in any direction - up, down, back... without extensive approval process and community consultation Mr Anderson wants consultation. When he goes to sell his house the view will ad value to his investment testimony to his lifetime of hard work. Are we saying there are two sets of rules? One for the corporates and one for the little man? Bollocks, I'm going to go and NIMByism with him and so should you...

        Date and time
        April 18, 2013, 9:26AM
        • But everyone knows that ACTEW can't afford anything but a pole. Poor ACTEW is trying to raise the much needed money to pay their big boss's wage, so how on earth can taxpayers expect anything but a pole?

          Date and time
          April 18, 2013, 9:35AM
          • Good on him. It's not liked he moved in a week ago and is now complaining. He has a fair and reasonable right to consultation should any works affect the amenity of his house, including visual obstructions. The reality is I think that he's less concerned about the pole and more concerned about this lack of information prior.

            Not the ACTEWAGL employees fault but it's a cop out for ACTEWAGL to just rely on complying with the legislation... particularly when they keep telling us they're good community members. But, if the legislation is broke, then it should be fixed.

            Where are our pollies? They're all quiet now the election is over. But, this is symbolic Canberra. Bugger the inconvenience and logic... we'll do it our way.

            No one is every going to object to infrastructure being replaced to ensure minimum safety requirements are met, but we all do expect proper consultation prior.

            Perhaps we should stage sit ins at each of the ever increasing, ever delaying road works?

            Date and time
            April 18, 2013, 9:44AM
            • This man has a point. Where is ACTEW's consultation with local residents? If a much taller pole now blocks his view it effects the resale of his house. Would have thought that a very valid reason for complaint but too late for consultation once they start work across the street. Good on him for taking a stand as it's poor form by ACTEW. Just wait until you're the one impacted...

              Date and time
              April 18, 2013, 9:44AM
              • If he sat inline with the pole (in the photo) and looked to the right he would still see in the Brindys. He needs to get a hobby.

                ACT REsident
                Date and time
                April 18, 2013, 9:48AM
                • But after the Victorian and Canberra fires, maybe we should be moving to underground power instead??

                  Date and time
                  April 18, 2013, 10:00AM
                  • More power to you Mr John Anderson, you are a legend.

                    OLD DOG
                    Date and time
                    April 18, 2013, 10:28AM
                    • Maybe he doesn't want actew to upgrade any of the infrastructure and maybe he doesn't want the services they provide either. Ask yourself what reasons would actew have to erect a bigger pole. Maybe to make sure lines are out of the way of trees and houses, maybe to ensure safety. To the commenters saying it will decrease the value of his home, when people buy a home they know that they are buying in a residential area, they expect to see infrastructure. If you found a house you loved would you not buy it because it had a solitary pole. Would you offer thousands less because of it?

                      Date and time
                      April 18, 2013, 10:29AM

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