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Huntsbury residents fighting for fibre

Jessica Swan
fibreless st party
Pat Channings recently hosted a fibreless street party for her neighbours to discuss action being taken to get fibre to Huntsbury.  Pat Channings

Huntsbury residents are fighting for equity, after being left out of Enable’s fibre rollout across Christchurch.

While 87 percent of the country will have fibre laid for them – partly funded by ratepayer money – homeowners in Huntsbury face an expense of $36,000 to get ultra-fast broadband up their hill. 

Huntsbury local Pat Channings thinks it is completely unfair many people have received this service without dipping into their own pockets, while her neighbourhood with 36 residents faces large costs to get the same.

Now, she wants the Government to act.

“We’d like the council to put pressure on Enable, change their policy and provide fibre to all their residents rather than just the majority. It’s not unreasonable for Enable to provide us with fibre to our doors the same way they have everyone else in Christchurch, and many rural towns in South Island.”

During lockdown, she says it became increasingly apparent they didn’t have adequate internet connection. She describes situations where her neighbour’s family couldn’t all be on wi-fi at the same time, and how the delay on zoom meetings made conversations difficult to follow.  

Channings says she constantly sees Enable advertisements around the city, encouraging people to take fibre up as an option – and she wishes she could.

City councillor Tim Scandrett agrees getting fibre for those currently excluded is important, especially if Government wants Christchurch to be a 21st century city.

He supports arguments that Huntsbury is not isolated enough to be bypassed, being only 7km from the CBD.

Initially, Enable informed residents part of the issue was 350m of undeveloped land on the hill, making it commercially unviable to prioritise fibre in the area.

However, Cr Scandrett said the gap would be developed and eventually bring a profit to the council-owned company. With Enable set to return a dividend of $13.5 million since its rollout began 10 years ago, he says now is a good time to evaluate what can feasibly be done by Government to provide for those pockets.

But he also thinks an additional cost to residents wouldn’t hurt, despite their desire for a fully-funded installation.

He explains current home buyers purchase houses with three-waters, road connection and broadband included in the price.

“If residents were expected to pay a small sum I don’t think it would be unreasonable, every other ratepayer who buys new property has absorbed that cost.”

However, resident John Targett thinks he’ll have more than enough expenses next year with increased rates due to his local business.

He says he wouldn’t mind paying more – but he’s not getting the same services as everyone else.

 

Huntsbury resident and Tussock Hill owner John Targett believes fibre is now an essential service and needs to be accessible to everyone

Construction is already under way for his boutique vineyard on the top of Huntsbury Avenue and he says ChristchurchNZ is fully on board with the idea, supporting all initiatives to draw people up the Port Hills.

Although Targett has high hopes for the vineyard, he explains without proper fibre they’ll fail to reach their desired standard of excellence.

“Neither will it meet the expectation of domestic and international tourists, nor will it enhance the reputation of Christchurch as ‘an exemplar of an open and connected city’.”

Huntsbury residents are now waiting on councillors from their community board to present to the council and fight for their access to fibre.