Home' Greymouth Star : January 28th 2017 Contents Saturday Afternoon
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they could become ‘community hot spots’, using the spare
capacity in their fibre optic broadband.
“It’s not rocket science. The technology has been
available for a long time. It’s making it accessible to people,”
In Hokitika, Westland High School offered to become
a hot spot, too, using repeaters to link in Arahura and
Awatuna. But then the school administration block burned
down, taking out the internet hub.
Makaawhio then came on board with its marae-based
project, and over time the iwi negotiated with DOC for
access to locate the repeaters necessary between Fox Glacier
and Bruce Bay.
Runanga members have also been learning how the
technology works so they can run it themselves.
And so it happened. The first households have been
hooked up, with a tentative launch date from Chorus of
February 17. Maori Television plans to visit to report on the
“They are using it now, it’s working brilliantly,”
Just this week Wifi Connect staff were back looking at
restarting the Westland High project, and looking at repeater
The cost to extend the scheme down to Haast? Two
poles and $20,000.
In the next 12 to 18 months, WestREAP will return to
South Westland to help families get access to computers by
holding weekly courses.
Community trust Internet NZ provided funding for the
Bruce Bay connection.
Chief executive Jordan Carter says the initiative helps
“combat the digital divide in New Zealand by enabling
internet access for this isolated community”.
“The internet infrastructure this project produces will
not only benefit the small local community but also provide
connection services for visitors and tourists.”
$500 monthly for satellite internet, and $200 for tv
— and his data was capped at a mere 12MB.
In the beautiful dense bush around Bruce Bay, there is
no cellphone signal and until now, all internet had to come
via satellite, giving a slow and erratic coverage.
For the Wilsons it was a life of limited on-line access —
a quick check of B and B bookings, and Facebook (minus the
photos, which gobbled up precious data).
All of that has been transformed.
“Download speed would probably be three times faster,
and upload six or seven times,” he says of the new wifi
internet system, which has just been switched on and is still
being fine tuned. Goodbye expensive satellite link, hello $40
monthly bills and a whole new world on-line.
Paul’s grandson has just started his kaupapa home
learning. Before, the only help available was down the phone
line. Now, he can go on-line from home at Hunts Beach and
talk to his teachers wherever they might be.
Other children in the Bruce Bay area — some of whom
live up to an hour away from the nearest school at Fox River
— will also benefit.
A local will take up the position of ‘go to’ guy, helping
with IT and installations.
“I know there are people pretty excited,” Paul says.
There are squeals of excitement at Bruce Bay as another
household is hooked up to fast broadband for the first time,
opening up a whole new world, from business websites to
buying cattle on-line, and even internet tv. All of this, smack
in the middle of the biggest internet and cellphone black hole
in New Zealand.
The big boys in telecommunications did not want
to know about the remote communities of deep South
Westland, so WestREAP and the local iwi stepped in to the
breach to help themselves.
Now fast internet is available to 54 households in a
sparsely populated area stretching south from Fox Glacier,
bringing the world wide web into homes at Karangarua,
Manakaiaua, Hunts Beach, Jacobs River, Bruce Bay and the
Next, the same scheme will be extended to Haast — two
more poles are needed there — and the feed has just gone
A Bruce Bay family stands around the computer looking at photos of relatives overseas.
Thanks to a collaboration between WestREAP, Te Runanga o Makaawhio and a small
North Island internet start-up company, the deep south now has wifi internet that the
government would not deliver. Haast and other communities on the Coast are now
looking to follow Bruce Bay’s example. LAURA MILLS found out how these groups
worked together to bring internet to homes in a 260km radius for just $40 a week
— and an installation cost of just five figures.
To find out more about
Internet NZ’s community grants visit
on at Westland High School in Hokitika to service Awatuna
and Arahura via repeaters. (Arahura already has a broadband
cabinet at the base of the marae hill, but roading contractors
sealed over it.)
Cheryl Smeaton is the team leader for adult and
community education at WestREAP and helped make it all
happen, working together early last year with the Makaawhio
Runanga, which was looking at alternative ways to get
broadband into Te Tauraka Waka a Maui Marae at Bruce Bay,
having pulled the cable on the expensive satellite service.
Cheryl has been involved with the Computers in Homes
initiative since its outset in 2004. WestREAP had to take
a step back in the remote communities and look at what
residents needed to participate in Computers in Homes. In
this case, internet.
“The satellite provider was costly,” she says. “For a
family the cheapest was $290 a month, capped.”
Farmers trying to buy cattle on-line would have to
put a halt to things when they ran out of data, usually quite
quickly, and then wait for the next month’s allocation to roll
One business alone was spending $800 a month during
peak season. Now, they can pay as little as $40 for families
and $80 for businesses.
Through Computers in Homes, WestREAP staff knew of
Ivan Lomax and Leon Symes from Wifi Connect Ltd, a small
internet company from the East Coast. They had managed
to bring wifi to the Tokomaru Bay Maori community and
marae, piggybacking on the fibre-optic connection to the
nearby school, which acted as a wifi hub.
The challenge was to repeat that at Bruce Bay. Working
closely with Makaawhio, the Department of Conservation
and Wifi Connect over a period of months, they got together
a workable plan based on ‘repeating’ the spare broadband
from Fox Glacier School, and in September last year they
sought funding support from the trust Internet NZ, and were
also ready to ‘sell’ the idea to the rest of the local community.
Cheryl headed south with WestREAP’s hi-fi tech bus
‘Dora’ to meet the locals and show them the capabilities
arising from the marae-based project.
Every school on the West Coast had already been
equipped with high-speed broadband, and the idea was that
Te Tauraka Waka
a Maui Marae, at
he computer looking at photos of
en WestREAP, Te Runanga o Makaaw
p company, the deep south now has wifi inte
iver. Haast and other communities on the Coas
t would not
PICTURES: Paul Madgwick
Mahitahi Valley, Bruce Bay.
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