Infrastructure upgrades  |  11 Jun 2020

High-speed wireless broadband and 4G mobile phone coverage are on the horizon for Banks Peninsula as the 100th rural connection cell site goes “live” in Gebbies Valley today.

The new site marks the first stage of a vital communications boost for the region, along with a second site in Birdlings Flat.

Under the Government plan to connect remote communities to reliable broadband and improved mobile services, the Rural Connectivity Group (RCG) has set up eight sites in Canterbury, with three more already planned.

Rural homes and businesses will have access to high-speed broadband and mobile data, further supported by the removal of mobile “blackspots” along the southern side of State Highway 75.

Communications Minister Kris Faafoi marked the milestone at the Gebbies Valley site today.

“This is a significant milestone for the Government’s second phase of the Rural Broadband Initiative (RBI2), and is part of the important work Government is doing, together with the Rural Connectivity Group, to help connect rural communities in some of the hardest to reach parts of New Zealand,” Minister Faafoi says.

“COVID-19 has clearly shown us the importance of being digitally connected, and this new tower in Gebbies Valley means that more people are now able to connect to broadband, bringing social inclusion and allowing people to work and learn from home.''

Te Pātaka o Rākaihautū/Banks Peninsula Community Board Chairperson Tori Peden says the establishment of the Gebbies Valley site marks a huge step forward in bringing reliable communications to a very diverse area.

“More rural residents and businesses across Banks Peninsula will reap the benefits of next-generation broadband and top-class mobile access,” Ms Peden says.

“This initial arrival of high-speed broadband dramatically cuts the digital divide between urban and rural, ensuring that we are truly connected to wider New Zealand.

“Our children can access the same educational information and lessons as their city counterparts.

“Our business owners can establish stronger connections to help drive their success and our people can keep in touch with whānau and access a wealth of informative and entertainment services.

“Having digital connectivity is integral to the well-being of our community and, as recent events show, a truly essential service in maintaining nationwide connections to education and work.”

RCG Chief Executive John Proctor believes that “the importance of new [broadband and mobile] coverage to isolated rural communities cannot be underestimated”.

“Livening sites makes a huge difference to the daily lives of locals and is why it’s more important than ever we’ve worked hard to complete sites during lockdown.”

The RCG is a joint venture between Spark, Vodafone and 2degrees, with Crown Infrastructure Partners responsible for building more than 450 cell sites across New Zealand.

Pictured above: Minister Kris Faafoi (left), Te Pātaka o Rākaihautū/Banks Peninsula Community Board Chairperson Tori Peden, and Board member Reuben Davidson test out the cellphone coverage in Gebbies Valley.