Tow­ers to ex­tend cell­phone cov­er­age

Kaikoura Star - - YOUR LOCAL NEWS - PIPPA BROWN

Get­ting emer­gency ser­vices to a crash on Kaiko¯ura’s In­land Rd of­ten in­volves some­one in the crash or a passerby run­ning to the near­est land­line to raise the alarm.

But, af­ter months of lob­by­ing from res­i­dents, busi­nesses, doc­tors and in­deed emer­gency ser­vices, the mo­bile blackspot could be about to get four new cell tow­ers.

The nar­row, windy road has be­come cru­cial for ac­cess in and out of Kaiko¯ura since the earth­quake, but most of the route has no cov­er­age.

The road is still crit­i­cal for the sea­side town when State High­way 1, south of Kaiko¯ura, is closed for re­build work or bad weather.

Na­tional MP Stu­art Smith con­firmed the In­land Rd, or route 70, was pro­posed to be cov­ered under RBI2, by the Ru­ral Con­nec­tiv­ity Group, a joint ven­ture between 2de­grees, Spark and Voda­fone.

The con­tract pro­vides for up to four tow­ers for new broad­band cov­er­age to about 140 res­i­dents between Wa­iau and Kaiko¯ura by the end of 2022, but fi­nal cov­er­age would de­pend on where sites could be se­cured, he said.

‘‘It’s a re­ally good re­sult. I’m re­ally pleased and it’s great for our com­mu­nity.’’

The road was a vi­tal piece of infrastructure and, al­though not State High­way 1, would be used quite of­ten, he said.

A group that pe­ti­tioned Par­lia­ment for cov­er­age said it had been an is­sue for years, but af­ter the quake it be­came more ur­gent.

Mar­i­anne Tay­lor, who lived on a farm near the Kaiko¯ura end of the road, said she was pleased.

‘‘We put a lot of work into it and it paid off.’’

Along with Mt Ly­ford res­i­dent Sue Turn­bull and Bin Kennedy from the In­land Rd, Tay­lor led the pe­ti­tion to get cell­phone cov­er­age.

For such a long stretch of road with no cell­phone cov­er­age it was a real no-brainer for safety rea­sons alone, she said.

Tay­lor said she started look­ing for sup­port in Jan­uary and got hun­dreds of emails from lo­cals, busi­nesses as far away as Christchurch, as well as emer­gency ser­vices and doc­tors, later get­ting thou­sands of sig­na­tures on a pe­ti­tion to take to Par­lia­ment.

‘‘I’m re­ally happy with the out- come ... If we hadn’t done what we did it could have been an­other 20 years be­fore we got it.’’

Turn­bull said five years was a long time to wait, es­pe­cially when ar­eas with less tourist traf­fic had been given the go-ahead.

The In­land Rd was one of the roads des­ig­nated under the Alpine Pa­cific Tri­an­gle tour­ing route between Waipara, Han­mer Springs and Kaiko¯ura.

‘‘I’m very dis­ap­pointed this area wasn’t ac­knowl­edged as a des­ig­nated tourist area, which is one of the cri­te­ria for mo­bile blackspot fund­ing, and it’s dis­re­gard­ing the num­ber of tourists that come through here.’’

Smith said he was talk­ing to the Ru­ral Con­nec­tiv­ity Group to try and speed up the process.

SUP­PLIED

In­land Rd res­i­dent Sue Turn­bull, one of a group of res­i­dents push­ing for mo­bile cov­er­age.

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