Cell coverage for Kaikōura's Inland Rd - but not for five years

Contractors deal with the aftermath of Cyclone Debbie which closed the Inland Rd earlier in the year.
PIPPA BROWN/STUFF

Contractors deal with the aftermath of Cyclone Debbie which closed the Inland Rd earlier in the year.

Getting emergency services to a crash on Kaikōura's Inland Rd often involves someone in the crash or a passerby running to the nearest landline to raise the alarm.

But, after months of lobbying from residents, businesses, doctors and indeed emergency services, the mobile blackspot could be about to get four new cell towers.

The narrow, windy road has become crucial for access in and out of Kaikōura since the earthquake, but most of the route has no coverage.

The road is still critical for the seaside town when State Highway 1, south of Kaikōura, is closed for rebuild work or bad weather.

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National MP Stuart Smith confirmed the Inland Rd, or route 70, was proposed to be covered under RBI2, by the Rural Connectivity Group, a joint venture between 2degrees, Spark and Vodafone.

Inland Rd resident Sue Turnbull, one of a group of residents pushing for mobile coverage.
SUPPLIED

Inland Rd resident Sue Turnbull, one of a group of residents pushing for mobile coverage.

The contract provides for up to four towers to provide new broadband coverage to about 140 residents between Waiau and Kaikōura by the end of 2022, but final coverage would depend on where sites could be secured, he said.

"It's a really good result. I'm really pleased and it's great for our community."

The road was a vital piece of infrastructure and, although not State Highway 1, would be used quite often, he said.

"Although there are only four cellphone sites, there will be quite a bit of coverage. It won't be 100 per cent, but a fairly good chunk."

A group that petitioned Parliament for coverage said it had been an issue for years, but following the earthquake it became more urgent.

Marianne Taylor, who lived on a farm near the Kaikōura end of the road, said she was really pleased.

"We put a lot of work into it and it paid off."

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Along with Mt Lyford resident Sue Turnbull and Bin Kennedy from the Inland Rd, Taylor led the petition to get cellphone coverage.

For such a long stretch of road with no cellphone coverage it was a real no-brainer for safety reasons alone, she said.

Taylor said she started looking for support in January and got hundreds of emails from locals, businesses as far away as Christchurch, as well as emergency services and doctors, later getting thousands of signatures on a petition to take to Parliament.

"I'm really happy with the outcome ... If we hadn't done what we did it could have been another 20 years before we got it."

Turnbull said five years was a long time to wait, especially when areas with less tourist traffic had been given the go-ahead.

The Inland Rd was one of the roads designated under the Alpine Pacific Triangle touring route between Waipara, Hanmer Springs and Kaikōura.

"I'm very disappointed this area wasn't acknowledged as a designated tourist area, which is one of the criteria for mobile blackspot funding, and it's disregarding the number of tourists that come through here."

Smith said he was talking to the Rural Connectivity Group to see if they could speed up the process.

 - Kaikoura Star

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