It's the kind of technology that will enable driverless cars some time in the next few years - and it has been successfully rolled through Whanganui.

Project Westwind has upgraded the fibre connection between New Plymouth and Palmerston North. The project began in January last year and has cost $20 million.

On July 17 the parties involved met in New Plymouth for a debrief about how it went, and telecommunication company Spark ceremonially handed over a manhole key to lines company Powerco.

Workers on the project have laid down 286km of pink high grade polyethylene pipe to house the fibre. Construction finished in February and in May the fibre was installed and brought into service.

Advertisement

It was one of the biggest shared projects in New Zealand during the last 10 years. The participants Spark, national grid owner Transpower and lines company Powerco all shared the cost.

(From left) Ray O'Regan (Connect 8) , Ryno Verster (Powerco), Rob Berrill (Spark) and Brigitte Colombo (Powerco) celebrate the completion of Project Westwind in New Plymouth. Photo / Supplied
(From left) Ray O'Regan (Connect 8) , Ryno Verster (Powerco), Rob Berrill (Spark) and Brigitte Colombo (Powerco) celebrate the completion of Project Westwind in New Plymouth. Photo / Supplied

Transpower information services and technology general manager Cobus Nel said he was pleased to work with Spark and Powerco on the upgrade.

"We recognise the importance of collaborating on large infrastructure projects such as this which, if done in isolation, are difficult to justify."

The work was done by utility construction company Connect 8 and subcontractors, with the pipes laid mostly by directional drilling or mole ploughing.

At peak there were 70 people at work, and more than 10,000 overnight stays were needed across the region.

Sharing the project reduced the cost to participants, and meant roads were dug up only once. The new connection is also more resilient to disaster.

The pink pipes are easy to repair and replace and have seven times the previous capacity. In future more services can be added, as populations expand and services change.

The pipes replaced Spark's existing fibre optic cable, which was laid in the 1980s and 90s and needed upgrading.

Advertisement

The cables are part of Spark's more than 8300km "information highway". They transport data from businesses, government, mobile sites, and home users up and down the country.