Improving cellphone reception in four mobile blackspots, including Lake Okareka, will be put forward to the Government as an area of high priority for Rotorua.

Rotorua Lakes Council is working on its digital enablement plan, which it has named Digital Journey, to outline to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment how it would take advantage of a new broadband extension.

Councils across the country have been asked to identify projects that will promote the uptake and benefits of the next phase of the Ultra-Fast Broadband and Rural Broadband Initiative in their communities.

The digital plans are for both broadband and mobile connectivity.


The Rotorua project is being led by deputy mayor Dave Donaldson, who is leading the council's Economic Growth portfolio.

"I'm pretty excited about what the possibilities are for Rotorua," Mr Donaldson said.

"When the mobile blackspot fund was first put out there I said to our strategy adviser that we needed to get on to it. Okareka have been on for years about lack of connectivity out there."

Mr Donaldson said as well as the residential population, there was also huge scope for event organisers who used the lakes and surrounding forestry areas for sporting events.

He said mobile coverage would make the delivery of these events easier from a safety perspective, as well as from a marketing and media perspective.

The council recently held a Digital Journey day with local businesses to help with the development of the digital strategy.

Mr Donaldson said that session identified a number of initiatives including expanded free WiFi in the inner city, a Rotorua city app, identifying digital ambassadors and improving support for local businesses looking to improve their digital presence.

"We will be continuing to identify potential initiatives between now and September 18 when our digital enablement plan is due to be submitted. We will also be getting out to talk with more people in our community and then prioritising what is affordable and realistic."

The council has already identified seven areas across the district as priorities for investment from the Rural Broadband fund. These are based on available data on broadband access, defined as at download speed of at least 5mbps, and feedback from those communities.

Communications Minister Amy Adams said it was important local authorities showed how their communities would use the increased connectivity.

"I'm encouraging councils to submit plans with bold vision and pragmatic ideas on how they would maximise the use of broadband in their areas to help create economic growth and engage their community in digital technologies," she said.

The information received from local authorities will be an important part of deciding the type and location of infrastructure to be deployed in the next phase of the UFB and RBI roll-outs.

Mr Donaldson said if the council was successful with mobile blackspot funding, tenders could be put out by Christmas and work could start next year.