Melissa Lee
National Spokesperson for –
Broadcasting & Media| Digital Economy and Communications | Ethnic Communities

Last week I and my Rural Caucus Colleagues Louise Upston and Maureen Pugh called out the Government’s abysmal, and frankly unacceptable neglect of rural New Zealand’s connectivity needs. It is ridiculous that tens of thousands of New Zealanders are still connecting to the internet as if it were 1991 instead of 2021.

Tens of thousands of New Zealanders are still connecting to the internet as if it were 1991 instead of 2021.

The Minister, represented by Economic Development Minister Stuart Nash, gave woeful answers, with an utter disregard for the many around regional New Zealand that have endured repeated attacks on their lifestyle alongside ongoing concerns about COVID, their ability to work from home, their children’s education and the future of their livelihoods as part of the New Zealand economy.

Digital exclusion for rural and urban fringe New Zealand is a real issue. It is serious and, as COVID reaches into rural New Zealand, it is only going to get worse. How can people access telehealth services while isolating if they can’t get mobile reception? How can they keep their businesses alive online if the network in their community is congested due to an outbreak shutting their locality down for days to weeks (or possibly months on end as rural Aucklanders and part of the Waikato have been facing!)

This year’s DairyNZ View from the Cow Shed has been a massive rark up to the Government with 90% of New Zealand farmers seeing no improvement in their connectivity.

That is appalling.

This Government must urgently clear spectrum, it must urgently build more cell towers, roll out more fibre and, above all, it immediately needs to treat regional New Zealanders with some respect. We are all Kiwis whether living in the suburbs of our largest cities or in great primary production hubs farm side. Having visited countless communities pre-lockdowns in small town NZ, desperate to innovate but lacking good connectivity, it is vital they are given the tools they need to support their local ambitions and economy. We all need good connectivity no matter where we live in New Zealand. It’s a bottom-line for me to end the rural/urban divide and get New Zealanders connected across our beautiful nation.

National is committed to supporting New Zealanders living without good digital connectivity just as we are committing to seeing our country be an economic technological powerhouse full of innovation and competition.

Just as we need to end the MIQ Lottery of Misery today, get Auckland (and the Waikato) Back in Business and restore our place on the global stage, so too must we face the challenges of the digital frontier and uplift our capacity for the future of New Zealand industry.

What do you think?

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Op-Ed: The Digital Exclusion of Our Rural Communities
Melissa Lee

Melissa Lee

National Member of Parliament National Spokesperson for – Broadcasting & Media| Digital Economy and Communications | Ethnic Communities Authorised by Melissa Lee, Parliament Buildings, Wellington