Faster broadband comes to Rātana – and now they are better connected to the world than many people in the capital

The Jones boy is back in the business of making good-news announcements about the Provincial Growth Fund, rather than being asked to explain his role in one of hundreds of applications made by business people keen to slurp a few million from the $3 billion trough.

Today our Regional Development Minister is braying about log trains being about to run between Wairoa and Napier following PPF investment to reopen the rail line.

The Government invested $6.2 million to reopen the mothballed rail line which was closed after significant storm damage in 2012.

“With PGF support the rail line has been rebuilt and KiwiRail has established a road-rail log yard in Wairoa. On Sunday the first loaded log train will leave Wairoa for the Port of Napier,” Shane Jones said today.

“Export log volumes in the Hawke’s Bay region are predicted to reach 3.3 million tonnes per annum in the next few years and remain at high levels until the mid-2030s. The harvest growth around Wairoa is part of that picture.

“Trains will begin running from Wairoa on Saturdays and Sundays, carrying 1400 tonnes of logs each weekend, with more train services expected as harvests increase. That means 5000 fewer truck journeys between Wairoa and Napier a year, as a start.

“If we are to avoid more logging trucks on the region’s roads, keep congestion under control and lower our transport emissions, rail is a necessity,” Shane Jones said.
Forestry harvests across New Zealand have been increasing since 2008. They are currently at around 36 million tonnes per year, and are forecast to remain at high levels for the next decade.”

Jones said having options for transporting logs to port ensured a strong supply chain and gave confidence to the forestry industry.


And the jobs?


According to his press statement:

KiwiRail has employed two additional train staff and three track staff to support the new log trains and maintain the line.

KiwiRail expects to employ more people as services increase.

Local companies were used to develop the Wairoa log yard, which will be run by ISO Ltd.

But here at Point of Order we were (or some of us were) much more fascinated by the announcement Jones made two days ago.

Iwi, hapu and visitors to Rātana Pā near Whanganui now have access to ultra-fast broadband following its connection, completed in time for annual Rātana celebrations, he said.

The connection and associated hardware were funded from the PGF’s  $21 million Marae Digital Connectivity programme,

” … which aims to connect rural communities to the internet.”

Jones expressed his delight in a press statement:

“I am delighted to see Rātana pā, such an important and spiritual place, connected to the ultra-fast broadband network,” Shane Jones said.

“The connection was completed in time for celebrations this week,marking the birthday of the Rātana Church’s founder TW Ratana on January 25.

“These places are central hubs for whānau, hapū and iwi, and are central to many rural communities. This improved digital connectivity will support the community’s economic activity and improve their connections with wider whānau.”

“The new infrastructure supports the settlement’s digital hub and 10 offices within the pā ground and more than 350 whanau.

“The Marae Digital Connectivity programme is picking up momentum, partnering with 10 service providers throughout Aotearoa. Spark is also providing the hardware and installation to improve connectivity at marae nationally and some broadband connectivity, along with nine wireless operators.”

Just a few weeks ago the media were reporting that NZ has become one of the best-connected countries in the OECD after the first phase of the government’s Ultra-Fast Broadband (UFB1) programme was completed.

The programme is the broadband scheme deploying fibre-to-premises to 87 per cent of the population by 2022.

Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media Minister Kris Faafoi said the first phase of the project had been completed one month ahead of schedule, was within budget and was now offering high-quality broadband to 79 per cent of Kiwis.

“UFB1 has reached over 1.5 million households and businesses, including all urban schools and hospitals.”

The Stuff report on this accomplishment said:

Ten major cities connected in UFB1 exceeding 60 per cent uptake are Hamilton, Nelson, Dunedin, Auckland, New Plymouth, Whangarei, Rolleston, Tauranga, Lincoln, Cambridge, Waiuku.

Wellington is curiously absent from that line-up.

The interest of the PoO team is that one of them resides in a rural community just 30 minutes from Parliament by car (so long as you don’t set out before 9am during the working week).

His broadband is oh-so-slow, something of a drag for the productivity of this blog.

Moreover he and his neighbours are beyond the reach of a mobile phone signal.

A source of funding “which aims to connect rural communities to the internet” looks inviting.

If it can bring ultra-fast broadband to Rātana – and well done them for securing this help – it should be able to help our colleague and his neighbours, if they ask nicely.

So what must they do to qualify? And to whom should they apply?

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