Gigatown already having effect
Porirua City Council will spend more than $152,000 on a year- long ultrafast broadband competition it may not win – but the mayor has argued it’s money well-spent.
The Gigatown contest, run by Chorus, sees cities racking up points via social media in hope of being the city that gets a discounted rate on ultrafast broadband for its residents for three years.
Porirua City Council have spent $ 93,000 on the Gigatown campaign so far – spent on everything from flags emblazoned with the Gigatown Porirua logo to an online game in which Porirua mayor Nick Leggett is chased by zombies – and anticipated it would spend another $59,000 before the end of the competition in November.
Mayor Nick Leggett said the spending was a drop in the bucket in the context of the annual marketing and economic development budgets of $2.2 million.
‘‘It aligns with the story we want to tell about Porirua – young, dynamic, pro-business – and it’s money that was already allocated to spend on marketing and economic development,’’ he said. ‘‘ Frankly, the results have been really good.’’
Leggett said the campaign had generated significant ‘‘buzz’’ on social media, positive media stories about Porirua which had been lacking in the past, and had engaged the wider community by getting them involved in activities like the Gigatown video contests.
It was ‘‘business as usual’’ spending, and because the money was not allocated for other council-funded activities such as infrastructure upgrades, if it had not been spent on the Gigatown campaign it would have gone on other marketing and economic development activities.
A council report tabled last week said although a win could result in substantial savings for Porirua residents and bring economic growth, the value of a Gigatown win could be diluted by a faster roll-out of ultrafast broadband in other cities. It could still be out of financial reach for the poorest section of Porirua’s population, the report said.
Porirua Chamber of Commerce chief executive Holly Thompson would not comment on the amount spent without seeing a full breakdown, but said it was appropriate for the council to have invested in the campaign as it had brought economic development benefits regardless of whether or not Porirua won.
‘‘What we have seen along the way is conversations that we’ve been trying to have with the business community and with the broader community for years,’’ she said. ‘‘This has helped us have those conversations [on infrastructure, digital literacy etc.] and engage people.’’
The Gigatown finalists will be decided by points on September 15, after which five towns will restart the contest.
A winner will be announced in November. Porirua, the only North Island town left in the running, is in fifth place.