By ROBYN BRISTOW
The emergency response in the Hurunui district following the November 14, 7.8 earthquake, was “hugely” frustrated by the lack of a complete and resilient communication network, says Hurunui Mayor Winton Dalley.
He said he trusted the Government “fully understands the importance and urgency for complete, high quality communication networks, not only for the urban populations, but for the powerhouse of the national and export economies – our rural communities”.
Mr Dalley was speaking at the “long awaited and valuable announcement” of the second, $300 million phase of the Government’s Ultra Fast Broadband (UFB) programme by Prime Minister Bill English and Communications Minister Simon Bridges, in Amberley last week.
He said high quality and reliable communication networks were second only in importance to efficient, high quality and resilient roading networks, as the most critical economic growth enabling infrastructure.
“In order, both these networks are essential to enable not only economic growth, but also as we have just witnessed, to ensure the safety of our communities during an inevitable natural disaster, no matter what form that natural event takes,” Mr Dalley said.
The Canterbury Mayoral Forum Economic Growth Strategy (CREDS) had been driving the importance of UFB across the region as a key driver and enabler of economic Growth and prosperity for our region.
As highlighted through CREDS, UFB was a critical tool to drive efficiency and productivity in the two biggest export industries – agriculture and tourism.
“We have some outstanding examples of precision agricultural practices delivering increased productivity and at the same time achieving efficient use of resources such as water and fertiliser.
“Of equal importance, environment benefits also flow from these precision agricultural practices – more water for environmental flows and reduced leaching of nutrients are two examples.”
Tourism was another huge and important part of the economy and was increasingly ependent on high quality technology to “provide the required service to its customers and stay ahead of the game”.
“For our relatively remote Primary Care Health Centres, Four in Hurunui, high quality communication capability is increasing critical to the continuation of that care, it is needed to provide critical support and backup for our GP’s and first responders.
“The reality is, it is increasingly more difficult to staff these critical health providers. Technology will be an important part of future health service delivery in these areas,” Mr Dalley says.
Amberley, Cheviot, Culverden and Kaikoura are all part of the roll out.
Kaikoura Mayor Winston Gray says while ultra fast broadband was not happening tomorrow it was a step in the right direction and the providers of the service needed to be encouraged and supported as they worked their way through the regions.
Ultra fast broadband will be a game changer for the more rural parts of our economy, it will enable business to run more efficiently and create huge opportunities for those wishing to live work and play in the areas that provide a quality life style, and not be disadvantaged living away from the larger metropolitan areas.
Waimakariri MP Matt Doocey said the announcement was right on target for the continued development of the region.
“I’ve advocated strongly for Waimakariri to be part of the extended roll-out and I ongratulate the Waimakariri District Council and Enterprise North Canterbury for their work in putting forward a strong case for our area,” he said.
Oxford, Waikuku Beach and fringe areas outside Rangiora and Woodend were included in the second phase of the national $300 million package.
Doocey said Waimakariri’s rapid growth and mix of peri-urban and rural areas, as well as the opportunities presented by the vibrant regeneration of its town centres, made ultra-fast
connectivity essential in continuing to build on the success of the region’s profile.
“Waimakariri enjoys many cottage businesses in areas that are outside our urban centres but for which connectivity is essential. This is great news for business productivity, Doocey said.