The project was to find a solution to the South Westland digital blackspot between Fox Glacier and Haast. The area around Bruce Bay is the most difficult demographically to engage, by identifying a solution and connecting the community using technology and expertise that is available in other parts of the country, we can model a strategy that we can use throughout the West Coast that is affordable and accessible to everyone; individuals, families, communities, business, industry and visitors alike. This connection opened March 2017.

WestREAP was the link between identifying the need in South Westland using the Mobile Digital Classroom (DORA) owned by 2020 Trust.  In the community, we could see the issue and the potential for the communities if we could find a solution.  We could see the solution through our networks in the 2020 Trust and our long association with Ivan Lomax and Leon Syme (WiFi Connect), we had witnessed the development of that solution in communities very similar to ours.  We brought the WiFi Connect team and the Runanga (who were seeking a solution) together.  WestREAP facilitated the project and provided education for members of the community to engage in the project, liaised with the 2020 Trust and Internet NZ as project partners (in the absence of local support).

Mana Whenua have lived, worked and protected the land for generations. Whānau have drifted away since the beginning of this century to find employment, education and experience elsewhere.  The local school closed in January 2013. In 2015, and for years before that, there are plans to bring whānau home around the Bruce Bay Marae, Te Tauraka Waka a Māui; to engage in the cultural and environmental tourism industries, to re-energise the Papakainga; to enable visitors to enjoy the place under the guidance of mana whenua for the future.  People need to be able to educate themselves and their children, they need to be able to access their work (anywhere in the world), they need to be able to access resources and facilities online – like any New Zealand family living in a main centre would. Without the internet those things couldn’t be achieved, the isolation was becoming more of a barrier the more advanced technology becomes in New Zealand.

The solutions are not difficult, they have been tested and perfected in areas all over the motu, just as remote and as topographically challenged as the West Coast and in communities just as sparsely populated.  We know that because our networks and our REAP kaupapa introduce us to experts from everywhere and they know our work is as relevant and important to our people as it is to the people living urban.  WiFi Connect came, they engaged with our people, they fitted in and were trusted because we brought them here, when they got here they spoke about the same problems and simple effective solutions that were affordable and accessible to them.  They shared a vision with them of growth and development they could achieve as a result of the simple solution and they agreed and planned a potential new business that would be owned and operated locally and would enable the local community to grow their own capacity and continue to meet their aspirations for their place.  When we couldn’t bring the learning to the learner; we found someone we knew who could.

The project began in South Westland and the Arahura/Awatuna valleys around Hokitika in September 2015 with the first of a series of hui that WestREAP facilitated between WiFi Connect and the Runanga e rua: Makaawhio (South of Hokitika) and Ngati Waewae (Arahura and North).
The launch of the installation and first phone call into Bruce Bay happened on Friday 24th March 2017. The Police Officer now has a base at exactly the half-way point of his patch between Jackson Bay and Fox Glacier. He says it’s a 45 minute difference in accessing emergency services in the case of accidents, or other emergencies frequent in the area