Being out of reach best break of all

By Michael Dickison

Some locals in popular, remote holiday spots are pushing for better connectivity. Photo / Getty Images
Some locals in popular, remote holiday spots are pushing for better connectivity. Photo / Getty Images

Holidaymakers often complain when they can't get cellphone coverage but a new breed of city dwellers have been seeking out parts of New Zealand where their phones won't ring.

For them, a modern summer getaway is to break the tether of constant telecommunication.

Paul Brislen, the chief executive of the Telecommunications Users Association of New Zealand, ditches the smartphone for a few weeks in the summer.

"I do it every year. We go off to a place on the Coromandel Peninsula. Otama Beach. And it's glorious. Absolutely glorious," Mr Brislen said.

"No cellphone coverage."

There are more cellphones in New Zealand than people - and with smartphones, work emails can arrive 24-7.

"These days you get a lot of people whose lives revolve around the office," Mr Brislen said.

"You work hard, so when you play you want to get away. The change of pace is tremendous."

At the secluded campground, Mr Brislen came across another worker from the telecommunications industry, also enjoying the inability to connect digitally. Somehow it didn't work so well to just decide to leave the phone off by choice, Mr Brislen said.

But, at Otama Beach, the flipside was locals wanting better connectivity. The campground owner recognised Mr Brislen and asked him to lobby for better cellphone coverage.

"I can well understand the frustrations of, say, a son trying to get through schooling." The Rural Broadband Initiative was helping such communities, he said.

Further east, in Whanarua Bay, on East Cape, a manager of a rental bach said none of his visitors ever complained about being isolated from technology.

"We had a person saying 'I want to be away from normal life. No cellphones'," said Bernhard.

"People tell me they enjoy not having the amenities they normally have. In our bach we don't have TV or radio either. Out here, you have a peaceful environment. You don't miss any of it."

He said it was the only way to truly enjoy your holiday. If you really needed to make a call, there was a public telephone box in the village.

Carmen Tredwell, owner of Prospect Homestay and Spa, in Wairarapa, said a new Vodafone cell tower 10 minutes down the road could remove the farm's isolation.

Visitors had previously left messages in guestbooks about how much they enjoyed the lack of coverage, Mrs Tredwell said.

"I run a business and I can't receive a mobile call from my farm. For me, it's a hinderance," she said.

On Friday, Prime Minister John Key was on Great Barrier Island launching a new cellphone tower as part of the Government's Rural Broadband Initiative.

Emma Blackmore, Telecom's community relations manager, said people were becoming more reliant on their mobile phones as their primary form of connectivity.

"Fast broadband and mobile services are vitally important for the success of rural businesses, education, health providers, and in bringing rural communities together," she said.

House of Travel commercial director Brent Thomas said people could always go even farther afield.

"Typically customers looking to get far away from their day-to-day workloads are asking for places that are off the beaten track. Such holidays take people to Africa, eastern Europe and South America with a few even adventuring to Antarctica."

- NZ Herald

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