Dunedin wins Gigatown competition

After a year of social media lobbying, Dunedin has been crowned victor in the Gigatown broadband competition.

Dunedin mayor Dave Cull said he was thrilled with his city's win but promised to share with all.

"I look forward to the fruits of this win being shared and leveraged for communities across New Zealand."

He praised the enormous efforts by all communities nationwide in vying for the title.

"Win or lose, Dunedin community has built a momentum that won't stop because the competition is over."

The competition, which began in October last year, was run by communications company Chorus. 

Dunedin is the first town in the Southern Hemisphere to have ubiquitous 1 gigabit broadband, a $200,000 development fund and a $500,000 community fund.

Timaru, Nelson, Wanaka, Gisborne and Dunedin were the five finalists. 

About 180 people attended the announcement in Wellington including representatives from the five finalist towns.

Rangitata MP Jo Goodhew, who was there supporting Timaru , said about 80 per cent of the room was "deflated".

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But Timaru was in the best position out of all the towns.

"We are the only town to have almost complete roll out of fibre and the best uptake of it.

"We are in a better position than the rest to get our plans under way."

Timaru was also represented by Timaru District Council mayor Damon Odey.

Odey was upbeat about the result.

"I have always used the analogy of American Idol.

"The runners-up are the ones with the passion to make sure they become the rock stars.

"We will be the rock stars."

The competition had pulled the town together, he said.

Timaru will still drive forward and be the most advanced town in the country despite not winning the title, Odey said.

"Good luck to Dunedin and well done to all the other finalists.

"What the competition has taught us is that we will all prosper at the end as long as we make it happen."

Wanaka deputy mayor Lyal Cocks said obviously Wanaka was disappointed but the results at the end of the day were really quite exciting.

The investment made in the community as part of the competition has been "phenomenal".

"We would have loved to have the resources that came with winning but we will work closely with Dunedin as part of our region and look forward to progress."

In a balloon-filled Gigatown Nelson HQ "giga-orphans", "giga-husbands" and the "twits" (serial tweeters) joined in a round of applause for Dunedin, and for what the future would hold for Nelson.

Campaign leader Clare Atkins said Dunedin had always been the biggest threat.

"Thirteen months ago I said Dunedin would be the city to beat.

"Although I'm sad it's not us, I'm not sad it's Dunedin, I think they were worthy winners and they'll put it to good use."

She said the competition had given Nelson a chance to think about its future, and the team behind Gigatown would continue the momentum and implement the city's digital strategy.

"It was about changing the conversations we were having in Nelson about digital and we've achieved that.

"The conversation now, wherever it is, is about digital and what digital is going to mean for our city."

Nelson's mayor Rachel Reese skyped Gigatown HQ from Wellington to tell the room full of volunteers, sponsors and city councillors how proud she was of their grassroots effort.

"Chorus are right here beside us I can feel the next step change happening," she said.

"You're all champions.

"We're not going to let this energy go, we've got a fantastic future ahead of us and i feel very proud of our city and particularly proud of our Gigatown team."

Initially 50 towns across New Zealand competed for the prize.

The competition has been running since October 1 last year and required towns to compete on various platforms including social media, quizzes, Instagram videos and producing a "gig for success" plan.

Orcon announced plans to provide broadband users in "Gigatown", unmetered gigabit-broadband from $95 a month.

Orcon customers will also be able to buy a gigabit service in Gigatown for $85, but that will come with a relatively modest 100 gigabyte traffic cap.

Orcon said it would provide its gigabit customers with a free wireless device to stream television programmes from their computer to their TV. The device is the Roku 3 player which usually retails for $150.

It would also offer an account manager to assist during installs.

"We're committed to having the most premium service experience in New Zealand to match our premium products. Gigatown's future focus is an excellent launch pad for this upgrade," general manager Mike Shirley said.

MyRepublic, the only other internet provider committed to retailing Chorus' gigabit plans has yet to announce its pricing.

Local internet service provider Vetta Technologies director Shaun Fisher was unable to commit to when it would provide gigabit internet.

"It all depends on the variables from Chorus, which are unclear at the moment," he said.

Industry sources had speculated that Dunedin would the likely front-runner, adding its size would make it hard for other retailers to ignore.

 - The Timaru Herald

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