Competition costs seen as money well spent

TESSA JOHNSTONE
Last updated 05:00 01/09/2014

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Porirua

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Porirua City Council expects to spend more than $152,000 on a year-long ultrafast broadband competition it may not win - but the mayor argues it's money well spent.

The Gigatown contest, run by Chorus, involves cities and towns racking up points via social media in hope of winning a discounted rate on ultrafast broadband for its residents for three years.

The council has spent $93,000 on its Gigatown campaign so far on everything from flags emblazoned with the Gigatown Porirua logo to an online game in which mayor Nick Leggett is chased by zombies - and expects to spend another $59,000 before the end of the competition in November.

Leggett said the spending was a drop in the bucket in the context of the council's annual marketing and economic development budgets of $2.2 million.

"It aligns with the story we want to tell about Porirua - young, dynamic, pro-business - and it's money that was already allocated to spend on marketing and economic development . . . frankly, the results have been really good."

The campaign had generated significant "buzz" on social media, positive stories about Porirua that had been lacking in the past, and had engaged the wider community by getting people involved in activities such as the Gigatown video contests, he said.

It was "business as usual" spending, and was not diverted from other council-funded activities such as infrastructure upgrades, he said.

A council report said that, although a win could result in substantial savings for Porirua residents and bring economic growth, its value could be diluted by a faster rollout of ultrafast broadband in other cities, and the service could remain out of financial reach for the poorest section of the city's population.

Porirua Chamber of Commerce chief executive Holly Thompson said it was appropriate for the council to have invested in the campaign, as it had brought economic development benefits regardless of whether or not the city won.

"What we have seen along the way is conversations that we've been trying to have with the business community and with the broader community for years. This has helped us have those conversations [on infrastructure, digital literacy etc] and engage people."

The Gigatown finalists will be decided by points accrued by September 12, after which five towns will restart the contest. A winner will be announced at the end of November. Porirua is in sixth place, but close behind fifth-place holder Nelson.

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- The Dominion Post

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