Pic 2: BTG190421CT2 Caption: Wairarapa MP Kieran McAnulty speaking to the Connect Tararua members and supporters at Mt Mable Angus Stud shortly after the visit of the above to the tower.
Pic 3: BTG190421CT3 Caption: Kumeroa School pupils welcome Hon Damien O'Connor and visitors to Kumeroa.
Pic 4: BTG190421CT4 Caption: Minister O'Connor speaks to guests and students about this significant day.
Pic 5: BTG190421CT5 Caption: Caitlin Metz presents Mel Poulton with a plaque on behalf of the Rural Connectivity Group for all her work getting the nine towers accepted.
Pic 6: BTG190421CT6 Caption: Tararua Mayor Tracey Collis presents the Minister and dignitaries with the book Tararua District.
Pic 7: BTG190421CT7 Caption: A toast was drunk to the commissioning of the towers.
Pic 8: BTG190421CT8 Caption: The official party of guests with Mel Poulton, Hon Damien O'Connor, Mayor Tracey Collis and MP Kieran McAnulty in the front row.
By Dave Murdoch
Nine new communication towers in the Tararua District went live on Thursday, April 8, bringing fast wireless 4G broadband connectivity to 650 households in rural areas.
Over all of New Zealand, 228 sites have brought connectivity to 19,500 households since the government's Rural Connectivity Group began its second phase rollout to rural areas.
Had it not been for Connect Tararua however the district would probably have gained one tower but according to Wairarapa MP Kieran McAnulty the action of this group became a role model for how rural connectivity is being rolled out across New Zealand.
On Thursday the people involved in this journey met in the Tararua, initially for morning tea and a debrief at Mt Mable Angus Stud, which hosts one of the towers, after it had been visited by the key people responsible for having brought them into being.
They then moved to the Kumeroa Hall where a larger group of invited guests and Kumeroa School children met for the formal commissioning carried out by Minister for Rural Communities Hon Damien O'Connor.
After a warm greeting by Kumeroa School pupils, MC for the afternoon and key advocate for rural connectivity Mel Poulton said everyone was "celebrating groups that have come together to make good things happen."
She thanked the small Connect Kumeroa committee which initiated the drive for connectivity and thanked them for giving the mandate to go district-wide and also thanked its chairman Tim Poulton for also taking over as chairman of Connect Tararua.
Tim said it had been a huge learning curve and the job was not finished because there were still gaps with no reception including his and Mel's neighbourhoods.
He thanked the 28 champions from those communities who travelled every road-testing reception and mapping the results which showed very limited reception beyond HW2.
With that information Connect Tararua was able to make the case for more towers with the government's Rural Connectivity Group, which controls the roll-out, and Crown Infrastructure, which funds it.
Representatives from both Caitlin Metz (RCG) and Nick Manning (CI) commended the group for its vision and energy the latter saying it been the best in the country resulting in the government investing $13 million to bring broadband to Tararua, acknowledging that even now they know the job is not finished.
Caitlin Metz agreed that the three-year process had been very rewarding and she presented Mel Poulton with a plaque to reflect the huge role she had played behind the scenes. She presented RCG caps to other members of the Connect Tararua Committee – Tracey Collis, Mavis Mullins and Sharron Wards.
Minister for Rural Communities Hon Damien O'Connor said he felt very 'at home' himself having come from one.
He said each community has to become a communication hub like Kumeroa because it was vital to extend connectivity far and wide.
"What Covid taught us was the need to be connected," he said and "Labour is focused on helping the disadvantaged – connectivity being one example."
He said rural areas are vital to the economy and they must have broadband to continue to generate income for the country.
"People in cities need us," he said.
Mayor Tracey Collis said she "was in awe of such an incredible group who led the way".
She recalled she was a new mayor when the process started and she said her council "strove in every way possible to get to where we are today".
As she presented the book "Tararua District -Through the Lens of Our People" to Minister O'Connor she said "Minister you see today the hope, heart and power of rural communities".
With that the entire audience including Kumeroa children raised their drinks to toast the commissioning of the towers and the official opening of The Kumeroa Hub.
Last word goes to Mel Poulton who said "The job is still far from done. We will keep doing the mahi in partnership with the government until this district is finished. Digital infrastructure is desperately needed in this day and age".