Free wi-fi users lounging at Wanaka phone box trip up pedestrians

People using free wifi sit on the Helwick Street pavement outside Base fashion store.
Chris Walsh

People using free wifi sit on the Helwick Street pavement outside Base fashion store.

Wanaka retailer Chris Walsh has asked the Wanaka Community Board to support his bid to move two phone boxes away from a busy street corner and stop free wi-fi users cluttering his shop entrance.

​Not so long ago, an elderly customer tripped over a pavement sitter's leg, hurt herself, and came into the store to complain, Walsh said.

Spark communications manager Michelle Baguley says the Helwick Street phone box is Wanaka's least busy wi-fi station, in terms of data usage, and says moving it would not be simple without a willing landowner to host power and phone lines.

The company has only ever agreed to move one phone box – it was in Auckland – for reasons unrelated to wi-fi use, Baguley said.

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Walsh said "time had moved on".

Base fashion store retailer Chris Walsh, left, with Wanaka Community Board member Ed Taylor.
Marjorie Cook

Base fashion store retailer Chris Walsh, left, with Wanaka Community Board member Ed Taylor.

"I have never seen anyone go in it," he said.

Wanaka Community Board member Ed Taylor agreed with Walsh.

"Everyone has a mobile," he said.

Free wifi users outside Base.
Chris Walsh

Free wifi users outside Base.

Putting seating around the phone box would make it even more of a destination and add to pedestrian congestion, Taylor said.

The men suggest a small wifi station could be placed on a public reserve on the lakefront or beside Bullock Creek.

"All they need is a wee box  ... I am sure we could investigate that. Lake Wanaka Tourism and the Chamber of Commerce might want to get involved as well because it affects all the people," Taylor said.

Baguley could not say whether Spark would agree to that because Walsh had not raised issues directly with Spark.

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Walsh said he had not been able to get through to the relevant person, gave up trying and went to the board instead. Taylor said he would make the calls.

​Baguley said free wi-fi extended in a 50m radius from Spark phone boxes and was for everyone, including locals and travellers.

Spark's phone boxes did not make money but provided a public benefit in emergencies or for people without mobile phones or broadband access.

Wanaka has nine Spark phone boxes, with data usage lowest at the Helwick Street box, she said.

The Telecommunications Act gives Spark the right to occupy land directly under phone boxes.

 - Stuff

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