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Chorus picked worst place to start slinging UFB in the air

Opinion Piece
Letter

The possibility of stringing fibre optic cable in power poles was discussed during the Gigatown campaign as a way to take the rollout of ultrafast broadband (UFB) further than otherwise planned around Gisborne.

It is obviously a lot cheaper to use existing infrastructure rather than dig in an underground cable so, if the government investment was the same, more areas of the city could be considered for access to fibre. It seemed a great way to get a bigger bang for our digital buck.

The Herald understood Chorus was discussing this option with Eastland Network Ltd, but several enquiries this year went unanswered, including a Herald enquiry after being told a deal had been signed the previous day.

Fast forward to Tuesday last week and residents at Okitu woke to find Chorus slinging a cable across their views of the ocean.

If it weren’t so stupid it would be funny. They couldn’t have come up with a worse place to start aerial deployment of UFB if they tried.

Apparently experienced external landscape architects deemed the visual effects would be very low, so public notification was not required. Nonsensically, that assessment did not consider views from two-storeyed houses.

It also turns out the cable was strung too low in places, breaching consent conditions. So some of the visual impact now is worse than intended.

A Chorus spokesman points out that aerial deployment is a normal part of the fibre rollout programme across New Zealand.

“There will be more areas in Gisborne which will have UFB deployed aerially, however we are still confirming the exact areas . . . we’ll be communicating our aerial plans with Gisborne residents in due course.”

That communication will be appreciated, and in almost all areas aerial deployment of UFB will be entirely uncontroversial.

Clearly Chorus has some back-pedalling to do at Okitu, though. If it is not going to take the cable underground along the front of these seaview properties, at the very least it needs to have the visual impact from second-storey balconies assessed.