Despite the Government's best intentions, digital hubs are still not practical for many in the rural community, writes Federated Farmers Northland provincial president John Blackwell.
I'm not ungrateful.
It's actually the opposite – thanks for throwing some infrastructure expenditure Northland's way.
On April 5, the Government began the physical roll out of its digital regional hub programme and Northland is the first province to experience being 'hubbed'.
The first area will be Kaitaia likely to be followed by Dargaville and Kaikohe.
There are marae as well which are likely to be going live as part of another stream of funding from the Provincial Growth Fund.
Read more from Federated Farmers here.
The targeted spend seems to be almost a plaster on an infrastructure problem that has been allowed to grow under successive central governments.
There seems to be the underlying thought that something is better than nothing and people can just grab their laptops, hop in the ute and drive to the closest hub, no matter the roading conditions, then sit in the car park and do their taxes.
The thing is, despite those best intentions, that the digital hubs are still not practical for many in the rural community.
What would be more practical is better connectivity for where farmers actually live and work.
We have a member who even now is only connected when a satellite comes into line of sight.
We have other people in the Northland area whose internet connectivity is best described as not completely dead, but if it was a cow an animal welfare officer would euthanise it.
We still have people struggling by on a landline service that is so patchy they feel life is at risk.
It is 2019 and water still gets into the network according to feedback on Federated Farmers latest telecommunication's survey.
Feedback from survey respondents include, "only have coverage at back of farm at highest point", "requires a satellite connection while I wait for RBI to be rolled out in this area – if it ever happens", and "often find the phone is not working due to water in the lines".
I'd like to be in a place where I could feel like the digital hub programme for Northland was something to be celebrated, but given what people are currently living with, I'm going to want to see some real dynamic practical changes.
We understand the Government has experienced a recent change over, and some ministers are new and following years of complacency and apathy towards anyone who dared settle outside of Auckland, but we need some real dynamic changes in how infrastructure is delivered to Northland.