Haast Township will have mobile phone coverage by the end of May and sections of State Highway 6 will have cell service by the end of the year.
Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media Minister Clare Curran has announced the accelerated, initial solutions to the area’s connectivity crisis during a visit today.
“This government has heard the community’s concerns about public safety issues caused by no mobile service and over summer we’ve seen the impact a lack of mobile connectivity can have in an isolated community which has a lot of tourism,” Ms Curran says.
“By the end of May a 3G cell tower will be built and operational covering the township and State Highway 6 north and east of Haast for around three kilometres. Residents and visitors will be able to txt and make phone calls on three mobile networks – Spark, Vodafone and 2degrees.
“There’ll also be mobile coverage on sections of SH6 between Fox Glacier and Lake Hawea by the end of this year. Between six and eight small roadside mobile sites will be placed on NZTA land, rest areas and on private land where available, along that section of highway.
“These sites will provide ‘islands’ of highway coverage for mobile voice calling and txt messaging. These initial solutions for the township and SH6 is aimed at improving safety and co-ordination and don’t include broadband coverage. The permanent solution for Haast and the West Coast will be based on 4G mobile technology with good broadband speeds and be in place before the end of 2022.
“Planning and rolling out mobile cellular towers across remote parts of New Zealand is challenging, partly because of how difficult it is to find suitable sites for the towers. The locations need to have coverage, power and connections back to the core telecommunications network.
“We have to be flexible and put real emphasis on the views and concerns of local communities and that’s what’s happened in this case. We are focusing on the areas of greatest need first – the West Coast is in this category, and Haast and the surrounding area in particular suffers at the moment from a near-complete dearth of connectivity. This is clearly causing problems not least in terms of safety with so many tourists coming through the area.
“If other regions organise themselves and bring part of a community solution to the table, such as land for the cell towers, then I will listen to their cases. But I would note that there are extenuating circumstances in the Haast case. The Haast mobile black spot is one of the longest in the country and includes one of the New Zealand’s most precarious state highways,” Ms Curran says.
The likely order in which rural communities around New Zealand will receive greater mobile coverage under the Mobile Black Spot Fund will be released soon.
“We won’t be able to give exact dates for the work but I want to clear up any misunderstanding that everyone will have to wait until 2022 for this,” Ms Curran said.
Updated on 8th March 2018