Lack of tech OK for some

20:00, Jan 05 2014
Andrew Elphick
CLEAN SHEET: Greymouth man Andrew Elphick uses a fax machine to communicate with "paranoid" government departments and his clients.

No landline, no cellphone and no internet access would be bliss for some and torture for others - and it's the reality for about 1500 Christchurch residents.

One per cent of the city's population have no access to telecommunication systems, according to 2013 census data, compared with 4 and 5 per cent of people throughout the South Island's least-connected districts.

Census data show more than 320 people are off the grid in Buller, Westland and the Chatham Islands when it comes to telecommunications.

The figures also show that fax machines and landlines are on the way out.

More than 20 per cent of Christchurch city residents had access to a fax machine in 2006, compared with 12 per cent in 2013. Landline access also dropped by 8 per cent in that time, but there has been a 10 per cent jump in cellphone access.

The Chatham Islands remains a fax machine stronghold, with just under 40 per cent of residents having access to one. This may be to counter the fact that just 55 per cent of people have access to the internet.


Westport woman Lee-Arna Niven, 46, said she was a big fan of "the good old landline". She also has a cellphone, "but I only use that for texting and sending pictures".

"The phone is always busy. I love it. It keeps me connected all over New Zealand. A lot of my family don't make the effort to pick up the phone and ring. I just ring them," she said.

Niven said she knew "quite a few" people in and near Westport who lived without access to a landline, cellphone and internet connection.

"I have got a friend that lives in Westport who doesn't have internet or a landline. He's pretty much a recluse. I don't think it's a financial thing. He just can't be bothered. He has a cellphone, but he hardly ever uses it," she said.

Greymouth man Andrew Elphick, a tax consultant who works from home, said he used a fax machine to communicate with "paranoid" government departments and his clients.

"If I want to be paid I need to pander to my whole clientele. Some of [them] are technophobes and as a result they have still got faxes. They're not in the 21st century," he said.

"Inland Revenue likes the old fax as opposed to sending stuff by way of secure email attachments and the Companies Office tends to like faxes too."

Elphick, 52, said he also used a cellphone, social media such as Facebook, services such as Skype, a landline and conference calls.

"I'm not a technophobe myself . . . I used to try and help people out with computers, but I gave up because it was too frustrating."

The Press