Hon Shane Jones, Minister for Regional Economic Development
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced today that the Government will invest $21 million to ensure even more New Zealanders in the regions can access modern and reliable digital services in their community.
The funding package announced today will connect marae to the internet and establish Regional Digital Hubs (RDHs) in towns enabling local people and businesses to access digital services.
This builds on $80 million in funding already announced from the Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) – including the expansion of the Rural Broadband Initiative Phase 2 (RBI2) and Mobile Blackspot Fund (MBSF) programmes, as well as projects to boost connectivity in Southland and on the West Coast.
“Digital connectivity is a key enabler for regional economic development, however it’s clear that many rural communities are lagging behind in terms of access to internet and digital services. Our Government is committed to bridging that digital divide,” Jacinda Ardern said.
“Connectivity is an essential part of doing business while also enabling education opportunities and enriching community and family relationships. Today’s investment will mean more communities will be able to enjoy the benefits of a digitally-enabled economy.
“In remote communities there are not always locations where local business people can access the internet or where local and visiting business people can come together or where tourists can access the internet. All New Zealanders should be able to have that access and the knowledge of how to use it regardless of where they live,” Jacinda Ardern said.
The RDHs will offer services such as free WiFi connectivity, co-working spaces and guidance on use of the internet for business purposes. The first RDHs will open in Northland with the next regional locations to follow within the funding available.
Regional Economic Minister Shane Jones said while many of us take digital services for granted, the reality for people based in the regions is that these services are not universally available.
“The PGF funding for boosting marae connectivity will include physically connecting marae to broadband networks and providing technical support and training.
“The first marae to receive PGF funding for digital connectivity are Oromahoe (Te Tai Tokerau), Te Houhanga (Te Tai Tokerau) and Raupunga Te Huki (Heretaunga).
“Marae are meeting places for whānau, hapū and iwi, and are central to many rural communities. Improving connectivity will support communities to undertake economic activity and enhance their capability,” Shane Jones said.
Te Puni Kōkiri and the Provincial Development Unit will run a process to select further marae and RDHs to receive the available PGF funding.
“Māori in particular are materially under-represented in information and communications technology so this investment will provide an alternative way for rangitahi to learn the skills a modern workforce needs.
“This Government is committed to providing regional New Zealanders with the tools to drive their own economic success and access to the internet is a critical part of that,” said Shane Jones.