The New Zealand government’s Rural Broadband Initiative (RBI) has reached Great Barrier Island, the fourth largest of the country’s main chain of islands, via the construction of a wireless broadband tower at Claris. According to the National Business Review, the deployment – the 31st such cell tower erected under the public-private RBI – will deliver high speed internet and mobile phone coverage to 210 Great Barrier households and businesses between Awana Bay and Jack Ryan Bay, and will generate its own power via solar panels and a wind turbine. The project cost NZD1 million (USD837,300), with the government covering site acquisition and construction costs, while Vodafone took responsibility for the equipment.
Quizzed why should the taxpayer should be forced to subsidise broadband service for a Hauraki Gulf island, which is best known as a holiday destination rather than a ‘rural’ area, prime minister John Key told journalists attending the launch: ‘Better cellphone coverage can potentially help to attract more people [tourists and residents] here. People with a job like mine can’t go somewhere and not be contactable’. Great Barrier Island receives around 30,000 tourists a year, but only has 1,000 permanent residents.