Ngati Whatua Joins Partners in Broadband Launch

A partnership led by three Taitokerau has achieved a major milestone in the development of rural broadband in New Zealand with the launch of Taitokerau Networks Limited Partnership.

The start of the dig for the ultra-high speed fibre broadband network throughout Northland was marked on September 14 by a turf turning using a traditional ‘ko’ digging tool at Puatahi marae on the shores of the Kaipara Harbour.

The location, in the heartland of the Ngati Whatua rohe, symbolises Taitokerau Networks Limited Partnership’s commitment to take rural broadband to the remote areas of Northland. To date, 30 kilometres of fibre optic cable has been laid as part of the first stage of a 200- kilometre link between Auckland and Whangarei to be completed in early 2012. The network will cost $8.5m to build.

Further stages of the network will be built over the next two years connecting the Bay of Islands, Kaeo, Kaitaia, Hokianga, Dargaville, Awanui and Waitiki Landing, and an eastern route returning from Whangarei to Auckland.Taitokerau Networks has been developed by Te Runanga o Ngati Whatua, Te Runanga o Te Rarawa and Te Runanga o Whaingaroa in partnership with Wellington telecommunications operator, Datalight Ltd, and with investment from Axin Ltd and Chinese investors.

Te Runanga o Te Rarawa chairman, Haami Piripi, says the business model for Taitokerau Networks is unique in New Zealand and utilises a modern business structure, a Limited Partnership, that became law in New Zealand in 2008.“This structure is very well suited to Iwi. It allows us to own a significant asset, and work with investors to achieve our entwined tribal commitments to economic, social and environmental development,” he says.Haami Piripi says in the first instance the fibre optic network is an investment to achieve returns for the iwi and its investors. Sales for space on the network are already being negotiated with New Zealand’s top telecommunications services providers.

“Our model is also very low cost, so it will be highly competitive. Once we have paidfor the build, we will be directly reinvesting our profits into the region and to Iwi.”Datalight Ltd will work as the general partner in the agreement and manage and operate the network.

Datalight Managing Director, Roger MacDonald, says the technology and financial models being used are a first in New Zealand, and are revolutionary in the way they protect Iwi asset ownership, offer a low cost delivery of broadband, and reinvest profits back into local communities to achieve social outcome.“It is ultimately about people, and achieving regional outcomes for Taitokerau. Farms, marae, community services, business and other service providers will all get access to high speed affordable broadband, in areas that were being overlooked by other rural broadband strategies,” he says.

A number of full-time jobs have already been created in the development of the network to date, and it is projected the network will lead to the creation of 450 jobs across Northland.The TNLP initiative is fully aligned with the Government’s urban and rural broadband initiatives and will play a major part in the achievement of social uplift, regional prosperity and outcomes for the people of Taitokerau,” he says.