$45m boost for South Island connectivity

The Government is investing $44.8 million from the Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) to improve digital connectivity in the West Coast and Southland, Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones announced today.

The investment will extend and improve internet access and mobile coverage across the entire area, including developing broadband infrastructure in and around Haast and Milford Sound.

“West Coast and Southland, like most regions, identify investment in digital infrastructure as crucial for strong economic growth and meeting that need is an aim of the PGF,” Shane Jones said.

“These two regions cover a lot of land which is a long way from our cities and the wider world. While locals take pride in that remoteness, connecting with customers, friends and family is still essential for thriving business and communities.”

Projects announced today include investments of:

  • $22m for Haast Fibre Loop between Fox Glacier and Lake Hawea
  • $12m for Milford Highway Fibre Connection into Milford Sound in west Southland
  • $5m to extend and improve mobile coverage on the West Coast
  • $1m to extend and accelerate Ultrafast Broadband (UFB) in UFB towns on the West Coast

Today’s announcement also includes an additional approximately $4.8m to expand the Rural Broadband Initiative Phase 2 (RBI2) and Mobile Black Spots Fund (MBSF) in the West Coast, funded from the PGF’s national connectivity investment announced earlier this month.

“Improved connectivity as a key driver of economic growth and the West Coast has identified robust digital infrastructure as an important factor in creating more resilient communities.

“Access to better digital services is a big part of ensuring sustainable employment and better paying jobs and that connectivity helps retain families in rural areas.

“The Government recognises that modern economies need reliable and extensive communication networks to thrive and is committed to improving digital connectivity across regional New Zealand,” Shane Jones said.

The PGF funding will be transferred to Crown Infrastructure Partners (CIP) which will contract providers for the project work.

Notes to editors:

  • Crown Infrastructure Partners (CIP) is implementing the RBI2/MBSF expansion and is aiming to use the existing $105 million expansion funding, and the $40 million allocated from the Provincial Growth Fund, to take RBI2 and MBSF coverage as far as possible across all the regions of  rural New Zealand, to close the connectivity ‘digital divide’.
  •  $4.8m of the $40 million allocated from the Provincial Growth Fund for RBI2/MBSF expansion is for extending coverage in the West Coast. CIP expects that the additional Provincial Growth Fund investment will for example make enhanced broadband available to nearly every rural marae, home and business on the West Coast.