Nelson Marlborough Farming - Rural Broadband Initiative

Columns
Monday, March 30, 2015

Improving connectivity throughout the electorate, through Ultra Fast Broadband (UFB) and the Rural Broadband Initiative (RBI), is one of my priorities as MP and I have written about my desire to improve rural connectivity in a previous issue of this magazine.

I was delighted to join the Minister for Communications, the Hon Amy Adams, recently to mark the completion of the government's UFB rollout in Blenheim, which is the 8th town in NZ to be fully fibred.
However, as I have indicated, if we are to be a ‘smart and connected’ community there is still a lot to be done to improve rural broadband and connectivity in areas beyond the town boundaries.

I am sure that many are familiar with the acronym T.E.A.M – Together Everyone Achieves More. That is why I have been keen to see various stakeholders and interest groups come together to develop a joint proposal to present to the Minister regarding the recently announced RBI extension. According to the Minister, this plan will see the UFB footprint widened to cover 80 percent of the population, to expand rural broadband and to improve mobile coverage in areas that currently have none.

Here in Marlborough, a working group is developing a case to present to the Minister. I am convinced of the need for Marlburians to work together to find the best solution to our connectivity issues. The funding is contestable so it is really important for us to present a case on behalf of all the people of Marlborough.

I am pleased that the working group consists of representatives from The Marlborough District Council, Marlborough Lines, the NMDHB, ISP’s, Federated Farmers, the Marlborough Research Centre, REAP, Rural Residents Associations, Rural Women and a range of industry groups including agriculture, aquaculture, forestry, viticulture and aviation.

The level of cooperation so far is extremely positive and I am optimistic that together the working party will develop a business model that builds on existing infrastructure and will ultimately provide an excellent return on investment for the region.

My aim is to see a comprehensive Registration of Interest presented to the minister showing our region’s capacity to deliver services outlined in the UFB2, RBI2, and mobile Black Spot Fund initiatives announced recently.

If we are to win funding for extending the RBI, a unified regional proposal is the best way forward. We need to work as a team.

United we win, divided we fail.