IT coup for Whangarei

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Northland is poised to become a hub of technological development as an undersea cable to connect New Zealand to the United States is proposed to come ashore in Whangarei.

Northland Inc has signed a memorandum of understanding with Hawaiki Cable to land the US$350 million ($433.4 million) submarine cable system in Whangarei.

The cable will carry massive amounts of electronic data, enough to transfer 468 DVDs per second, between Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii and the west coast of the United States.

The project, worth hundreds of millions of dollars for Northland, could be up and running within two years.

"Our plan is to develop information and communication technologies to substantially strengthen Northland's economy, which is currently based on the primary sector industries, as well as create new job opportunities," Northland Inc chairman Colin Mitten said.

Serious interest could follow from companies such as Google and Yahoo to build data centres in the Northland region.

The cable would be the second fibre optic cable network linking New Zealand with the rest of the world, an essential factor for the construction of data centres, Mr Mitten said.

Northland's abundance of "green power" such as the Ngawha geothermal power station, was an added drawcard for big digital companies, he said.

Northland Inc would aid the landing and the funding of the cable, including sourcing local investors and promoting funding through the Northland Regional Council's Investment and Growth Reserve.

Hawaiki Cable chief executive Remi Galasso said the system, which had a design life of 25 years, would be based on 100 gigabits per second wavelength technology and deliver more than 20 terabits per second of design capacity, meaning cheaper internet access for New Zealanders.

Under the memorandum of understanding, Hawaiki commits to bringing its cable ashore in the Whangarei area and build associated land-based infrastructure (including its cable landing station) in Northland.

Mr Galasso said three conditions governed the selection of the Hawaiki cable New Zealand landing site, the first being a different location from existing submarine cables, to protect security of supply in the event of a natural disaster or other unforeseen event. The site needed access to existing land-based data transfer networks and availability of "green power" for future development.

"Whangarei scored the highest in all categories and made the decision easy. On top of that, I believe Northland Inc's strategy for the economic development of the region is remarkable. Its plan to co-invest in Hawaiki clearly demonstrates that Northland is building for the future generation," said Mr Galasso.

The memorandum of understanding signatories expect to finalise agreements in the next few months and see the cable operational by autumn 2015.

- NORTHERN ADVOCATE

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