PGF to improve regional digital connectivity

The Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) will invest $40 million to improve digital connectivity in the regions, Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones and Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media Minister Kris Faafoi has announced today.

The investment from the Provincial Growth Fund will be used to expand the Rural Broadband Initiative Phase Two (RBI2), the Mobile Black Spot Fund (MBSF), and make broadband connectivity available to unserved marae.

Ministers Jones and Faafoi have today made the announcement in Manawatū -Whanganui, which will receive about $4.5 million from the $40 million allocation.

“Today’s announcement is significant for regional New Zealand. It is no secret that people living in our regions, particularly in remote areas, face slower internet speeds than their urban counterparts,” Shane Jones said.

“Improving digital connectivity is particularly important for businesses located in our regions and is a vital foundation for catalysing further economic development opportunities.

“Regional businesses need to be able to fully harness the advantages of new technology to overcome physical distance from markets. This investment will make a real difference for them.

“When the Coalition Government established the Provincial Growth Fund, improving digital connectivity was flagged as a key area of investment. This is because investment in this area will help lift productivity, create new opportunities and will support other investments the Government is making through the Provincial Growth Fund,” Shane Jones said.

Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media Minister Kris Faafoi has welcomed the PGF investment to improve digital connectivity in the regions.

“The $40 million investment will add to the $105 million already allocated to the RBI2/MBSF expansion. Given the scale of the additional investment, there is no doubt this will improve digital connectivity in the regions,” Kris Faafoi said.

Crown Infrastructure Partners (CIP) is implementing the RBI2/MBSF expansion and is aiming to use the existing $105 million expansion funding to take RBI2 and MBSF as far as possible to cover rural New Zealand, to close the connectivity ‘digital divide’.

The additional investment from the Provincial Growth Fund will bolster this and take it even further, with a focus on surge regions. CIP expects that the additional Provincial Growth Fund investment will for example make enhanced broadband available to nearly every rural marae, home and business in Manawatū -Whanganui.

“We know that improving digital infrastructure improves people’s lives – it ensures that New Zealanders, regardless of where they live, can experience the benefits of faster broadband,” Kris Faafoi said.

The Manawatū-Whanganui Economic Action Plan identifies digital connectivity as a key enabler for the region’s vision to increase job opportunities and quality of life.

“Through the Provincial Growth Fund the Government is able to get alongside regions to support and progress economic development priorities that regions themselves have identified.

“In this case, we’ve heard from the region that digital connectivity is an important enabler for them – so we are investing accordingly,” Shane Jones said.

Notes to editors:

  • Rural Broadband Initiative phase two (RBI2) – progressively increasing the availability of enhanced broadband access throughout rural New Zealand
  • Mobile Black Spot Fund (MBSF) – delivering new mobile coverage to around 1,000 kilometres of state highways and more than 100 tourist areas, supporting safety on state highways and enhancing visitor experiences at key tourist destinations
  • The $40 million investment from the Provincial Growth Fund will be allocated across six surge regions – Northland, Bay of Plenty, Tairāwhiti, Hawke’s Bay, Manawatū-Whanganui and the West Coast.
  • It will be implemented by Crown agency Crown Infrastructure Partners, which is already managing the RBI2/MBSF programme and its expansion.

Details of regional allocations will be announced in due course.

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