Ground breaking start to undersea Hawaiki cable journey

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From left, Hawaiki chief executive Remi Galasso, Communications Minister Amy Adams, Prime Minister John Key, investor Malcolm Dick, Hawaiki chairman Sir Eion Edgar and Te Uri o Hau trustee Russell Kemp. Photo / Michael Cunningham
From left, Hawaiki chief executive Remi Galasso, Communications Minister Amy Adams, Prime Minister John Key, investor Malcolm Dick, Hawaiki chairman Sir Eion Edgar and Te Uri o Hau trustee Russell Kemp. Photo / Michael Cunningham

Hawaiki is more than a mythical spirit world; it is a realm of instant international communication and the New Zealand portal to that world is at a beach north of Mangawhai Heads.

Prime Minister John Key and Minister of Communications Amy Adams yesterday dug their spades into the soil at the Bream Tail beach to mark the site where the $500 million, privately funded Hawaiki Submarine Cable landing station will be built - the cable digitally linking New Zealand to Australia, Hawaii and mainland USA.

Iwi speakers referred to Hawaiki being the mythological pathway that departing spirits left this world by; yet this new Hawaiki connection was one of arrival and welcome.

The groundbreaking celebration came with a government promise that as well as benefits to New Zealand's IT industry and ultra-fast and broadened connectivity, the Hawaiki cable would help remediate the black spots that cut parts of Northland off from digital services.

Ironically, the gully under which the ''connectivity'' cable will be buried was itself a black spot.

More than 100 people, including Northland business and civic leaders, Tai Tokerau MP Kelvin Davis (Labour), Whangarei MP Shane Reti (National) and iwi leaders, stood in the warm sunshine only metres from the beach where Hawaiki will make landfall, tied all the way to San Francisco, 14,000 kilometres away.

''Northland is the winner'' was the key message about the project largely born and raised to this stage by regional development agency, Northland Inc.

In the vein of ''build it and they will come'', Mr Key and Ms Adams referred to the impact on the region's economic development, jobs, education and even housing - but the only hard promise of government spending on infrastructure or incentives to help grow those areas was the already planned second stage roll-out of ultra-fast fibre in Northland.

Hawaiki chairman Sir Eion Edgar said the cable would benefit New Zealand through greater capacity, competition in internet pricing, resilience of supply and increased IT-related business opportunities.

Digital industry mogul, Hawaiki chief executive and the main financial backer, Remi Galasso said a survey of the Northland coastline and accessibility to infrastructure and industry-potential sites such as Ruakaka and Whangarei made Bream Tail the ideal landing point.

"Once complete, the Hawaiki cable will also add an extra layer of resilience and security in the event of a natural disaster," Ms Adams said.

Four years in the planning and another two before it will be delivered, the Hawaiki cable will provide Australia's fastest international digital connection - at more than 30 terabits per second, or five times the current capacity used in New Zealand.

The all-New Zealand, privately funded project has attracted government buy-in to the tune of $65m for an ''anchor tenancy contract'' through REANNZ (the Crown-owned Research and Education Advance Networks NZ).

Dr Reti said he was pleased to see the project finally under way.

''Show me the jobs . . . that's the ultimate measure for Northland,'' he said.

Among the speech making, Te Uri o Hau leader Russell Kemp welcomed the high-profile delegation to the site, reminding the prime minister that Ngati Whatua hapu were waiting for Waitangi Treaty settlements to be concluded at nearby Te Arai and Kaipara.

That would enable them to partake in economic development opportunities such as that promised through Hawaiki, Mr Kemp said.

When the marine survey, the cable laying and its commissioning are finished, around mid-2018, Hawaiki will provide the fourth as well as the fastest New Zealand international data link. The other three are through the Southern Cross cable and Tasman Global Access.

From the seabed the cable will plug into a landing station - the meeting place of the submarine and the terrestrial cables, travel under the private access road to Bream Tail Farm properties, emerge at the junction of Waipu Cove Rd and instantly enter the nation's digital landscape.

- Northern Advocate

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