Te Hapua created communications history last week when Spark switched on a metro cell at Te Hiku o Te Ika Marae, the first time it had provided a "metro cell solution" at a marae.

The metro cell will extend mobile coverage to approximately 400m radius, partly reaching the nearby kohanga reo, school and health clinic, Spark North Island business manager Cameron Bell said.

Marae trustee Hope Sucich said cellphone coverage had always been limited at Te Hapua, locals having to climb a hill beside the marae to get minimal coverage if it was not a clear day.

The improved coverage provided by the metro cell would enable people to stay connected with their friends and family, and give them peace of mind in the event of an emergency.


"This will be a huge help for us locals, and any visitors. Being so isolated has always meant we had very limited service, so this will give our people connectivity at the marae, schools and health clinics," she added.

The metro cell installation was facilitated by the Far North District Council and Spark after the Ngāti Kuri Trust Board sought better coverage. Mr Bell said the company had been happy to work with the marae and the council to find a solution.

"Where building a full mobile site with a tower, at a cost of up to half a million dollars, might not be feasible, the metro cell gives us a solution for this particular community," he said.

Mayor John Carter welcomed the installation as a step in the right direction for rural New Zealand.

"Connectivity is a game-changer, and council is working hard to make sure our rural communities don't fall through the net," he said.

"We are committed to our goal of 100 per cent connectivity, 100 per cent opportunity. This is a big day for Te Hapua and a milestone for the Far North District."