More than 87% of Aotearoa connected as Opononi finally switches on UFB

Opononi residents and those in surrounding areas of the Hokianga in the far north are celebrating the arrival of ultrafast broadband, which brings to a close an 11-year-long project rolling out fibre networks to much of the country.

Four telecommunications network companies and their contractors have put more than 45 million work hours into laying fibre cables over the past decade, finishing an extended section of the rollout on time and within budget to 87% of the population.

The final connection of fibre cables was made in Opononi this week, the last of more than 400 towns from Kaitāia to Bluff to join the national network.

Arama Wikaira, who works at the town's tourist attraction Manea - Footprints of Kupe, said the occasion was marked with kai and waiata as the community acknowledged the long-awaited project and the hard mahi conducted by the likes of Chorus and its contractors.

He told the arrival of UFB would allow the rural communities around the reaches of Hokianga to remain connected with each other and whānau who live in other parts of the globe.

"Heoi anō tēnei hononga fibre kāore e kore ka whakaaweawe i te hunga pakeke hoki kia ako ai i ngā mea o tēnei mea te ao hangarau. He aha te ia o te ao e noho nei tātou? He ao hangarau, he ao matihiko, he ao kōhatu he ao a ō tātou tūpuna rānei?

Connecting Opononi to the rest of the north.

Inspiring the Far North?

"He hua tā tēnei mea te fibre, he huakore rānei? Koirā pea he pātai mā tātou. Mehemea e hiahia ana ki te kimi mātauranga he aha atu, meinga mai ko tō wāea pūkoro ki reira tūhia mai ko ō pātai ko ō hiahia mā Google pea koe e whakautu."
(This fibre connection will no doubt inspire many of us up here, including our pakeke to learn and understand this technology age. After all, what is the world we live in today? Is it the technology age, or are we still living as our tūpuna did? 
Will this fibre have a benefit, or not? That is probably the question we will find out. But really now if there is anything we need to learn, or need to know we can just reach out to our phones, ask the questions we want answered, and ask Google there and then.)

Chorus alone has laid 98,000 kilometres of fibre cable in the two stages, with the UFB partnership companies together completing the first 79 per cent of the country in 2019, and the last eight per cent delivered as an extension of the project over the last three years.

Chorus chief executive JB Rousselot says he’s rapt with the infrastructure rollout delivered by Chorus, Enable, Northpower and Tuatahi First Fibre in partnership with Crown Infrastructure Partners (CIP).

“Delivering fibre broadband is about future-proofing New Zealand so we can be a more competitive and connected country for generations to come,” Rousselot said.

Milford Sound the toughest

“The rollout has been an enormous success and team effort between CIP, all four infrastructure companies and the retail internet providers who work with us to bring the fibre broadband connections into homes and businesses around the country."

New Zealand’s challenging geography has kept Chorus and its contractors, who were responsible for delivering 75 per cent of the overall rollout, busy at times.

“Our most challenging location was Milford Sound, with helicopters needed to lift gear in and much planning needed to get teams in to do the work. It has been worth the effort to make sure as much of New Zealand as possible can be connected,” Rousselot said.

“Supporting infrastructure such as fibre is vital to growing our economic and social infrastructure over time, which is critical for our regional and rural communities.

“There’s still more to do,” adds Rousselot. “We want to enable everyone to have access to fibre and participate in the connection, commerce and community that reliable internet brings, no matter where you live.

“We are working to identify ways to ensure the 650,000 New Zealanders who make up the 13 per cent outside of the fibre footprint can get connected, and we look forward to progressing this work with our partners over time.”