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Current as of 21/10/14 02:00PM NZST

West Coast anger at $1.5bn broadband plan exclusion

West Coast mayors are demanding to know why their region has been left out of the Government's $1.5 billion investment in ultra-fast broadband.

Communications and Technology Minister Steven Joyce yesterday announced public-private partnerships would be established to deliver ultra-fast broadband to 75 per cent of New Zealanders within 10 years.

That 75 per cent was based in the 25 biggest cities and towns and leaves out the entire West Coast - something Grey District Mayor Tony Kokshoorn said was "just not on".

"We're all in this together. The West Coast is booming. We're adding a lot of overseas exchange to the Government coffers so we shouldn't be missing out down in the South Island," he told Radio New Zealand.

"We're a special part of New Zealand and we've got the highest economic growth at the moment, so the Government needs to really have a good hard look at itself."

Westland Mayor Maureen Pugh said the West Coast was one of the few areas nationwide not suffering from the economic decline.

"It hasn't got the volatility that the rest of the country has got so in terms of potential, I think that we probably warrant it more than most because when everything else fails, it's your primary producers that are going to be propping this country up," she said.

Mr Joyce said a further $48 million had been set aside for improving rural broadband but announcements around that were still several weeks away.

It was not practical to install the cables needed for ultra-fast broadband to all rural homes, he said.

"I haven't yet seen anybody sensibly arguing that we're going to put fibre to the home to every remote farm in New Zealand," he told Radio New Zealand.

"There are other technological solutions."

Mr Joyce accused those criticising yesterday's announcement of "looking a gift horse in the mouth" and said it was a big step for New Zealand.

Local Government New Zealand president Lawrence Yule said the plans were exciting but he was concerned about the 25 per cent of the population not covered.

"If you're not one of the 25 cities selected, then there is a great uncertainty around how broadband is going to be rolled out in your particular community and ... I can understand their concern," he said.

"That's why I'm asking the Government, reasonably urgently, to clarify that additional $48m, how that is going to be allocated, if the likes the Grey District or others will have access to that sort of money."

Mr Joyce has called for feedback on the proposal, with interested parties having until April 27 to make submissions.

The 25 centres, in order of population, are: Auckland, Christchurch, Wellington, Hamilton, Napier and Hastings, Dunedin, Tauranga, Palmerston North and Fielding, New Plymouth and Hawera, Kapiti and Levin, Nelson, Rotorua, Whangarei, Invercargill, Wanganui, Gisborne, Cambridge and Te Awamutu, Blenheim, Timaru, Taupo, Masterton, Whakatane, Ashburton, Tokoroa, and Oamaru.

- NZPA

See the draft proposal for comment here

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