Broadband, cellphone scheme proposed for Marlborough Sounds

Broadband, Cellphone Scheme Proposed For Marlborough Sounds


Better cellphone coverage and faster broadband could be coming to the Marlborough Sounds. They’re off the beaten track, but remote Marlborough Sounds residents could find technology catching up with them – with faster broadband and better cellphone coverage proposed for the area. Marlborough wants to tackle its “mobile black spots” and could set aside $2.5 million for the scheme.

The project would cover about a third of the Sounds area, including parts of Pelorus Sound, Tory Channel and Queen Charlotte Sound.


Max Gifford, Blenheim. “I go down to the Marlborough Sounds quite a bit. We get Spark because the translators not far from us, but we can’t get Vodafone. It’s working for us because we have got a Telecom phone. “

Gill Stevens, Fairhall. “The last thing I’d want to do is to be on the cellphone on holiday. I guess for the people that live in the Marlborough Sounds or who visit far more often than we do, they would probably need to have it.”

Anita Wright, Blenheim. “Yes, I would holiday in a place with no cellphone reception. If you’re holidaying you’re relaxing so you don’t really want to be bothered. To be honest I don’t really know what cellphone reception’s like in the Sounds, we’ve been out in our boat but I’ve never really had to use a cellphone. I guess if you get into problems cellphone coverage could be good.”

Bill Scandrett, Rarangi. “At our age it’s not that crucial. We live in the Sounds but we do have cellphone reception. Yes, it should be improved for safety and medical emergencies, because most of the Sounds haven’t got it.

But it’s sparsely populated, I suppose they don’t want to spend money.”

Mark Wiseman, Rarangi. “Absolutely. I go to the Sounds sometimes, just to walk the track or something. If I lived there I’d have views but as a visitor I don’t really see the need for cellphone coverage. I live in Rarangi and I’d like it improved there.”

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Better coverage for Rai Valley, between Blenheim and Nelson, could also help resolve safety issues caused by gaps in cellphone coverage on State Highway 6.

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Sounds councillor Trevor Hook said it was a matter of residents being able to have choice about how isolated they were.

“It’s having that ability to use that technology if you need or want to, and that’s a matter of personal choice.

“Lack of coverage prohibits them from perhaps being able to live fulltime in those areas if they are dependent on internet access.”

The idea was being explored by council staff and would be discussed by the Marlborough District Council on Thursday, when the annual plan was discussed. Councillor Geoff Evans said while councillors were being asked to budget $2.5m for the project, the Government was expected to eventually fund at least a portion of the cost through its Mobile Black Spot Fund and Rural Broadband Initiative schemes.

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It was unknown how much funding the Government would provide at this stage, due to high numbers of applications throughout the country for the funding. Marlborough Sounds bach owner Susan Rapach supported better cellphone coverage after an accident a year ago saw her having to radio for help.

“I’ve owned that property for 14 years and cellphone coverage has always been bad,” she said. She slipped when she was watering plants at the property near Waiona Bay, a remote part of the Sounds, breaking bones in her ankle.

She usually had to climb up onto a rock on her property if she wanted to use her cellphone. She would have had to crawl 800 metres with a broken foot if she did not have the radio, she said. Better telecommunications were important for the area, and if people wanted to stay off the grid they could just not bring their laptop on holiday, Rapach said.

“If people want to live in the Stone Age that’s their choice, but a lot of people need electricity and things of that sort.”

A pilot project began in November last year and provided broadband speeds of 50 megabytes per second to about 15 Waihopai Valley residents. The entire Waihopai Valley was expected to be covered by the middle of next year. Kenepuru and Central Sounds Residents Association chairman Ross Withell said there was cellphone coverage in “most places” in the central Sounds, but there were always a few blind spots.

“Any improvement is certainly an advantage,” he said.

Picton police often resorted to marine or DOC radio to locate missing trampers in the Marlborough Sounds, and Sergeant Kris Payne said any improvement in telecommunications would definitely be good news for emergency services. Grovetown man David Kepes, who owned a bach on the edge of the Pelorus Sound, agreed having good cellphone coverage was a safety issue. Although boaties were supposed to use marine radio a lot of them took their cellphones out on the water, Kepes said.

As a builder who did a lot of work in the Sounds it was also critical for him to be able to communicate with absent bach owners, and with architects, who were usually based in the city.

Slow internet coverage was also a hassle for residents, with Pelorus Sound woman Marion Harvey saying she had issues with her internet creeping along during the summer holidays, when the number of people going online on her road increased.

– The Marlborough Express

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  1. ^ Broadband connection map lays out New Zealand’s network (
  2. ^ Pilot project provides cheaper, faster internet connection for rural residents (
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Ministers visit Marlborough for wine, farming and high-speed broadband talks

OLIVER LEWIS Ministers Visit Marlborough For Wine, Farming And High-speed Broadband Talks


Primary industries minister Nathan Guy addresses Flaxbourne farmers at the Ward Community Hall on Thursday. Marlborough had a very ministerial day on Thursday, with three senior cabinet ministers flying in to the region. Economic development minister Steven Joyce, communications minister Amy Adams and primary industries minister Nathan Guy were all in Marlborough.

Joyce and Guy attended a meeting with wine industry representatives at WineWorks, in the Riverlands Industrial Estate, where they were briefed about the impact of the earthquake. Some wineries and vineyards sustained damage as a result of the earthquake, which industry experts say was worse than the previous large shock centred in Seddon three years ago.

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Kaikoura MP Stuart Smith said the meeting was a chance to see what assistance the Government could provide to the industry, which was facing capacity constraints because of tank damage.

“It was about how the Government can assist the wine industry to deal with its tanks and logistics issues as quickly and efficiently as possible,” he said. This could involve sourcing stainless steel from overseas for storage tanks, as well as looking at the logistical challenges posed by the new, longer freight route through Lewis Pass.

Wine Marlborough general manager Marcus Pickens said the meeting was a good chance to update the ministers on the situation in Marlborough. New Zealand Winegrowers had formed a Marlborough earthquake response team to act as a central point of information to keep members updated, Pickens said. At the meeting industry representatives also decided on how to inform their members and the wider public about the scale of the situation, which was expected to be announced next week.

Guy also visited farmers near Flaxbourne to see how they were coping after the earthquake, which damaged water supply schemes in the area.

“Their water schemes have been badly affected by the earthquakes, they’ve got damaged tanks, pipes and fittings,” Smith said. It was important the schemes were repaired before summer, when creeks and other sources dried out and stock were in need of more water, he said.

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Farmers could apply for financial assistance through the $5 million package the Government announced last week to assist primary industries in earthquake-effected areas. The communications minister was in Marlborough to mark the installation of a new high-speed broadband internet and cellphone service facility for the Waihopai Valley.

Adams visited the site of the facility, 800-metres above sea level on Big Hill, along with Smith, who said the service would benefit residents in the area.

“The opportunities that efficient, fast broadband and cellphone service will provide for these rural residents, farmers and businesses are many and varied,” he said.

– The Marlborough Express



  1. ^ Government announces $5m aid package for quake farmers (
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  3. ^ Seddon misses out on wage subsidy package to help businesses stranded by earthquake (
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Ultra-fast broadband a let down for some Blenheim …

Ultra-fast Broadband A Let Down For Some Blenheim ...


Fibre optic cables are laid at Lakings Road in Blenheim. Blenheim has one of the highest uptakes of ultra-fast broadband in the country, but some residents are not impressed with the service. Chorus completed the fibre network in Blenheim last March, which typically provides download speeds of around 100 megabits per second.

People in Marlborough have been posting their complaints about ultra-fast broadband on Facebook, with some not reaching advertised speeds or randomly disconnecting.

A poll conducted by Stuff, showed some respondents were dissatisfied with the quality of their internet after switching to fibre.

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The results of the poll showed 34 per cent had occasional problems with speed and connection; 19 per cent had lots of problems; 12 per cent had no problems; 14 per cent had not connected to fibre; and 21 per cent did not have access to fibre. Chorus stakeholder communications manager Nathan Beaumont said fibre was faster and more reliable than the old copper network. However, speed and connectivity issues could still happen, because of factors such as internet connection plans, modems, computers and the wiring in homes and business, he said.

If people were having issues with ultra-fast broadband, their first step should be to contact their internet provider, he said. Marlborough District Council libraries manager Glenn Webster said people often tested wi-fi speeds at the Blenheim and Picton libraries before upgrading at home. In February, there were 4571 wi-fi users at the Blenheim Library and 3165 at the Picton Library.

“Sometimes people complain about it being a bit slow but if we didn’t have fibre, we’d grind to a halt,” Webster said.

Many people in rural Marlborough also used the libraries, to check their emails and use the internet, because access and speeds were a problem for them, he said. The fibre network in Blenheim was the result of government investment in the Ultra-Fast Broadband Initiative, which saw 33 towns and cities around the country get fibre networks. Beaumont said, of the networks Chorus had installed, Blenheim had the highest uptake of ultra-fast broadband in New Zealand.

Around 12,500 houses, businesses, schools and health centres had access to fibre, and 3100 had taken up the service, he said. The government also had a Rural Broadband Initiative, to use copper, fibre and wireless networks to improve rural internet. Before Chorus started improving the networks in Marlborough, 1277 rural households had broadband services.

This had increased to 1674 households.. The average broadband speed in Marlborough had increased from 5.9Mbps to 13.6Mbps, Beaumont said. Last September, the government released a list of towns that might be included in the extension of the Ultra-Fast Broadband Initiative, including Picton, Renwick and Kaikoura.

The fringe areas of Blenheim not covered by the network were also included in the proposed extension. Blenheim man David Hix said he had applied to his internet provider to switch to fibre. However, he shared a driveway with three neighbouring properties so needed their consent to get connected.

One of his neighbours declined and Hix was forced to wait another six months to apply again.

Hix said he was frustrated by the temperamental speeds on the copper network, which could drop as low as 2Mbsp.

– The Marlborough Express