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08/08/2018 12:00pm

The recent flurry of fibre-related activity on Waihi residential streets is a particularly welcome sight for Councillor Austin Rattray. A member of former community group Connect IT Hauraki, he’s been on a mission to get ultrafast broadband into Hauraki communities since 2015. 

Back then the government asked councils to put together a business case for their communities to receive fibre along with a plan for how better connectivity might be used to create economic and educational opportunities and improve social well-being in the area. 

“We set up a district wide community group (Connect IT) to work on our application and create a Digital Enablement Plan. The plan included a number of exciting projects and the council at that time put $44,000 into the budget to kick start it,” Councillor Rattray said.

Community Wireless Trust

Over the next few years fibre will be rolled out district-wide and last year Council’s Economic Development Committee started working with the Community Wireless Trust, the first registered charitable digital development Trust in the country. Having trialled a project to provide fibre broadband via wireless connectivity to the Waimate community, the Trust was keen to do something similar in Hauraki.

An agreement has since been formed with Waihi College to use the school’s fibre connection to provide high speed wireless internet in Waihi. The Trust is also working with the Maratoto Valley community to set up a similar connection via Hikutaia School and hopes to expand into Paeroa and Ngatea in the near future. 

“The Trust’s business model is to put profits from its service subscriptions back into the community to support education and digital development projects identified by the community,” said Rattray.

Digital Enablement Plan

Recently the Council agreed to contribute $30,000 of the funds earmarked for its Digital Enablement Plan to the Trust.

“This money will be used by the Trust to implement projects in the plan, including the installation of wireless hotspots to provide free WiFi in the town centres of Waihi, Paeroa and Ngatea. It will also be used to pay for repeater units to speed the delivery of wireless broadband to areas of the District with limited internet connectivity, which was also identified as a priority in our plan,” he said. 

Economic Development Committee Chair Ross Harris says the Digital Enablement Plan is about so much more than digital connectivity.

“It’s about sharing knowledge, providing access to education, and ensuring rural communities like ours stay connected and globally competitive,” he said.    

“We all know we live in a complex, fast changing world. The one certainty is that technology will continue to advance exponentially so we’d better get on board.”

Fibre installation well underway in Waihi

Chorus Stakeholder and Communications Manager Steve Pettigrew says Waihi’s fibre build is expected to be complete in May 2019.

“Residents will be able to connect to fibre about six to eight weeks after the build completes in their area,” he said.

Those wondering when they are likely to be able to order fibre from their broadband provider, can use the broadband checker on Chorus’ website,

Fibre is scheduled to be rolled out in Ngatea before the end of next year and in Paeroa, and Turua in 2020.