The recent addition of cellphone coverage in remote parts of South Westland has also introduced the area to a problem experienced everywhere - people driving while on the phone.

Small cell towers have been erected at Haast township, Roaring Billy car park, Pleasant Flat, Lake Moeraki, Bruce Bay and Lake Wahapo.

''There have been several crashes directly next to these sites recently and the cell coverage is gold,'' Senior Constable Paul Gurney, of Haast police, said.

But the towers were small and only covered about 50m, so people had to stop their car. The Haast tower covers a wider area with a 4km radius.


''We are hoping they'll be getting on to building the more permanent sites for Haast (Haast Junction, Okuru, Hannahs Clearing and Neils Beach/Jackson Bay),'' Mr Gurney said.

''The only negative for police is we now catch the 'odd' person driving while on the phone at Haast.''

The Rural Connectivity Group, contracted as part of the Government's Rural Broadband Initiative, said in a statement it had plans for 16 mobile sites between Hari Hari and Neils Beach, including permanent towers along State Highway 6 at Roaring Billy Falls, Lake Moeraki and Bruce Bay by the end of 2021.

Reports over the busy summer months indicated locals and visitors were making use of the signal, it said.

The NZ Transport Agency will soon be installing signs at some locations along the State Highway, alerting travellers to the coverage spots.

Design work by its engineers continued on several other sites to serve the West Coast, with 35 sites under ''active acquisition'', 13 leases signed and 30 completed.

''The local enthusiasm for the projects is infectious,'' acquisition and planning team leader Brad Clarke said.

''The rugged terrain and limited access to power and transmission solutions are real challenges for us. However, the in-depth knowledge provided by local residents is proving incredibly helpful in finding solutions.''


The West Coast has been identified as a priority area for new telecommunications infrastructure under the Rural Broadband Initiative 2 and Mobile Black Spot programmes.