Better digital connectivity coming for West Coast and Southland

  • Hon Shane Jones

Work has begun on two regional fibre links funded by the Provincial Growth Fund which will enable upgraded communication services on the West Coast and Southland, as well as improving resilience in the event of network damage, Infrastructure Minister Shane Jones says.

The links will run between Fox Glacier and Lake Hawea for approximately 240km, and from Te Anau to Milford Sound for approximately 120km. 

“The upgraded capacity and resilience these new fibre links will provide to the West Coast and Southland are a further example of the Government’s ongoing commitment to improving critical telecommunications infrastructure nationwide, as well as specifically boosting investment in the regions,” Shane Jones said.

“Investment in high-quality communications infrastructure proved its worth to New Zealand during the COVID-19 lockdown and will also underpin the economic recovery.”

As well as enabling new and upgraded broadband services and providing backhaul to mobile and wireless sites along the route, the Fox Glacier to Lake Hawea link will also provide an alternative route to existing fibres which are primarily on the East Coast of the South Island. The new link will generally follow State Highway 6.

This link will also enable Haast township to be added to the Ultra-Fast Broadband rollout. Crown Infrastructure Partners is providing further Provincial Growth Fund money to Chorus to build fibre to the homes in Haast when the link is completed.

Businesses in Milford Sound and along the route to Te Anau will also benefit from enhanced broadband and mobile services. This new link will generally follow State Highway 94.

Chorus will ensure co-ordination with other Government-led projects in the region, including working with NZTA and the Milford Road Alliance to align the build with repairs being made to the Milford - Te Anau Highway and the recently announced shovel-ready Homer Tunnel Upgrade, and working with the Rural Connectivity Group to make the fibre available to mobile sites along the routes.

It is expected that the Fox-Hawea fibre link will be completed in the first half of 2022 and the Milford link by the end of 2022.

Fibre backhaul services over both fibre links will be available to other telecommunications operators on an open access basis.

Note to editors:

Fibre links provide ‘backhaul’ connections between cities and towns and back to the core telecommunications network. They will enable Ultra-Fast Broadband to be deployed to towns on the West Coast and will provide the basis for generally better, more reliable broadband connections on the Coast and in Milford Sound. They will also provide connections to mobile towers being deployed on the Coast and in Milford Sound under the Rural Broadband Initiative phase two/Mobile Black Spots Fund.

The fibre links are primarily Government funded, following a grant from the Provincial Growth Fund. Crown Infrastructure Partners ran a tender process to identify the partner to build the links and selected Chorus, which will also contribute to the costs and operate the links once they are completed.

Both fibre links will provide connectivity to mobile towers covering a combined approximately 187km of ‘mobile black spots’ on State Highways 6 and 94, and 21 tourism sites in both areas, improving coverage for tourism emergency services in these scenic but isolated areas.