Whangarei is New Zealand’s first gigacity

An innovative fibre rollout ends two months ahead of schedule in New Zealand's north.

Three years ago, Manaia View School, in Whangarei, became the first school in New Zealand to be connected to fibre under the government’s NZ$1.35 billion Ultrafast Broadband project.

Today it hosted the announcement that Whangarei had become the first fibre city in the country, two months ahead of schedule and, as communications minister Amy Adams pointed out, five years ahead of Auckland.

Adams described the completion of the fibre rollout in the city as a “major milestone”. Across the country, she said, 7000 student now have access to UFB.

Amy Adams and John Key at Manaia View School

Adams said it was hugely important for the success of the project that other communities take ownership of the project as Whangarei has done.

The rollout in Whangarei was completed by community-owned electricity lines company Northpower without a lot of the issues seen in other regions, by stringing fibre on existing power poles.

Northpower Fibre developed some innovative techniques to make that process faster, such as jointing fibre while it was in the air, chair Jo Brosnahan said.

At the announcement, Prime Minister John Key said the UFB project is being driven by an appreciation of the transformative power of internet access, particularly in a country that has suffered from “the tyranny of distance” for so long.

Key also hinted that while the UFB projects stated target is fibre to 75 percent of the population, this could be extended.

He said when some people asked why the Government would spend NZ$1.35 billion on UFB he compared it to major roadworks costing a similar amount.

“I think when it comes to lifting the performance, capability and liveability of New Zealand nothing will do that like UFB,” he said.