RCG connecting communities in more ways than one

 18 October 2018

The Rural Connectivity Group has been meeting with landowners throughout the Wairoa District to discuss new telecommunications infrastructure that is planned for the region, and along the way has discovered many local connections to the area.

RCG has plans to build 11 potential mobile sites to give the Wairoa district greater rural broadband and mobile phone coverage. Caitlin Metz, RCG’s Engagement Manager, grew up in Wairoa herself, and so is familiar with the great lack of connectivity due to the rugged rural terrain, low population numbers, and lack of commercial viability for mobile operators.

The RCG is using joint funding from the Government’s Rural Broadband Initiative Phase 2 (RBI2) and Mobile Black Spot (MBSF) programmes, as well as from 2degrees, Spark and Vodafone.

Brenna Fisher, RCG Property Consultant, recently came across her own personal connection while meeting landowners in Wairoa. When talking with Robert Unwin, owner of Toione Station, upon chance she discovered that his father and her grandfather flew alongside each other in a bomber plane in World War Two. Robert had photos of the two men together that he was able to share with Brenna.

Newspaper clippings that Wairoa landowner Robert Unwin had of his father and RCG Property Consultant, Brenna Fisher’s Grandfather together

“It turns out that my grandparents attended Robert’s wedding, and he had been at my grandfather’s funeral. It was amazing to meet him, and I loved seeing the newspaper clippings he had kept about their time together in the war. The Rural Connectivity Group is connecting people in more ways than one!” Brenna says.

A framed photograph of Noel Unwin (Robert’s father) and Jack Fisher (Brenna’s grandfather).

Another one of the proposed new Wairoa mobile sites will sit on land at Waihua Station, owned by Rose Haynes. The new tower will provide coverage to over 3.5kms of State Highway 2 between Wairoa and Bayview, which is currently without mobile services at all. Rose organises the popular annual Waihua Christmas Fete (taking place on Sunday 25 November 2018) and is looking forward to visitors to the station being able to stay connected while staying in accommodation on the working beef and sheep farm, but most importantly while enjoying the Christmas Fete.

“The Waihua Christmas Fete has become an unrivalled fixture on the annual shopping calendar, with entry fees being donated to Starship Children’s Hospital. Now our visitors are going to be able to share their experience of the Fete instantly on social media, and be able to call and text friends and family while at the Station for the Fete, which is great news for us!” says Rose.

“Once the tower is built and operational, having that extra connectivity on site means the Fete will become an even bigger and better attraction”.

THE FUTURE OF WAIROA DISTRICT CONNECTIVITY

In this initial phase of the project, the RCG is identifying the ideal build locations across the Wairoa District so that services can reach the greatest possible number of rural households, improve mobile coverage on state highways and at key tourist destinations.

In order to stretch the funding and ensure as many build sites across the region as possible, the RCG is keen to collaborate and work with all local parties – communities, councils, Iwi, hapu, whanau, DoC, NZTA, landowners, local businesses, our suppliers, and the mobile network operators. By working together – we can all contribute to a successful outcome for a connected rural New Zealand.

By December 2022 the infrastructure built by the RCG across New Zealand will see at least 30,000 rural homes and businesses gain mobile and high-speed wireless broadband coverage. As well as this, 32 rural state highways will gain mobile coverage; and at least 100 top New Zealand tourist destinations will be connected.

For more information about Waihua Station and the Waihua Christmas Fete please visit http://www.waihuastation.co.nz