Twenty-one Northland towns are to get hooked up in a $33 million rollout of ultra fast broadband (UFB) over the next six years, under a government initiative to provide broadband capacity for another 41,500 Northlanders.
The UFB2 announcement was made in Dargaville's town hall yesterday by the Associate Minister for Economic Development, Nathan Guy, who said the Northland project was part of a national $300 million UFB2 rollout.
Lines company Northpower had won the contract for Whangarei and Kaipara and would have access to central government funding through a $15 million interest-free loan from Crown Fibre Holdings, meaning Northpower would own the infrastructure in 12 of the 20 towns.
This would add to its existing 8500 UFB-connected premises in Whangarei under the UFB1 initiative, which had capacity for 20,000 people. The company would invest $30 million of its own money into the project.
The new towns were Mangawhai Village, Mangawhai Heads, Maungaturoto, Paparoa, Kaiwaka, Ruawai, Dargaville, Ruakaka, One Tree Point and Waikaraka. The first cab off the rank would be Hikurangi, where work would begin in April and finish before Christmas 2017.
Waipu's infrastructure would also be finished before the end of the year and all of Northpower's work would finish in four years.
The remaining nine towns would be connected by Chorus within six years, and included Ahipara, Kaitaia, Morewa/Kawakawa, Russell, Kaikohe, Kerikeri, Paihia and Taipa Bay/Mangonui.
Mr Guy said UFB would benefit everyone from families to businesses and while the transport infrastructure, such as the Puhoi to Wellsford route was vital, the broadband infrastructure was important to the region.
He said UFB would help transform Northland's economy.
While Northpower already had a schedule of work published, with strict conditions to complete each build in 12 months, Chorus had yet to secure that information and was taking a further three months to finalise details and sub contracts.
Mr Guy said a number of other locations would be included in the next rollout of connectivity, with the tenders for the Rural Broadband Initiative phase 2 (RBI2) and Mobile Black Spot Fund (MBSF) closing in April.
He said that despite private companies owning the vital UFB infrastructure across Northland, both were subject to government contract, with assurances that costs would remain affordable.
The communities with enhanced digital access would see social and economic benefits, said David Wilson, CEO of Northland Inc, the regional economic development agency which coordinated the region's proposal to central government for the UFB extension.
"From Northland Inc's perspective ubiquitous digital access across Northland is fundamental to strengthening and diversifying the regional economy.
"This, combined with the Hawaiki international, submarine cable landing at Mangawhai, will provide international connectivity for a large part of Northland's economy and provide the basis for developing Northland's digital economy further."
He said Northland could attract international investment in the digital sector, local businesses could do businesses better, faster and with international reach and local tech-savvy businesses could develop and locate in Northland.
"Most businesses transact online these days, this is another step towards Northland businesses being able to do that and, given that Whangarei has the highest business take-up of UFB in the country, they are ready."
Northland Chamber of Commerce CEO Tony Collins said UFB1 had changed the online landscape in Whangarei, providing faster, more reliable connections.
He said the success of UFB2 project would be measured by looking at the uptake in the newly connected areas, as well as improved online business activity and digital engagement.
Towns getting connected:
One Tree Point