James Ihaka is a Herald reporter based in Hamilton.

UFB-wired marae offers communities opportunities for future

Nga Pu Waea chairman Antony Royal.
Nga Pu Waea chairman Antony Royal.

An ultrafast broadband-wired marae in a deprived Northland community could offer a glimpse into how marae may function differently in the future.

Te Kotahitanga in Whangarei is among the first marae in the country to receive ultrafast broadband as part of the Wired Marae programme by Nga Pu Waea, the National Maori Broadband Working Group.

The pilot programme, which aims to connect a handful of marae with the technology, is being monitored and could determine whether other marae will be connected with UFB.

Te Kotahitanga marae secretary Dorothy Wise said an old tea room from the Marsden Point oil refinery is now an ICT hub at the marae with 12 computers and a boon for the local community, many of whom have no experience with IT and don't have internet access. Many were reconnecting with their marae and were using the facilities to search for jobs or upskill in literacy and numeracy courses.

"The place is buzzing now, we have at least 15 people coming in here every day to use the computers," she said.

"There are kids here who think it's their second home, we are having to tell them that some of the hui we have here are actually private."

Nga Pu Waea chairman Antony Royal said marae such as Te Kotahitanga and Awataha Marae on the North Shore were testing grounds for ideas on how others could use the technology to support themselves and their communities.

UFB could transform the way marae function in the future with whanau overseas interacting with their marae from a distance and could open a multitude of business opportunities and even help with remote health monitoring in remote communities, he said.

- NZ Herald

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