$50 million has been set aside for ‘shovel ready’ rural broadband projects. The investment was announced by infrastructure minister Shane Jones and communications minister Kris Faafoi.

This week’s announcement is on top of the $15 million announced on April 29.

The new money will come from the Government’s $3 billion infrastructure fund which is part of the COVID Response and Recovery Fund.

The ministers say the investment will reach most areas of New Zealand. There is a priority list. At the front of the queue are Northland, Bay of Plenty, Waikato, Top of South and Canterbury. After that the investment will extend to Gisborne, Manawatu-Wanganui, Auckland rural areas and Otago. Then it will be Hawkes Bay, West Coast, Taranaki, Wellington (rural), and Southland.

Minister Kris Faafoi said that the focus of the $50 million funding would be on adding capacity in congested areas. It will focus on those areas that experienced capacity constraints during the pandemic lockdown. This mainly happened in high density areas and on urban fringes.

The first project under the new fund will see a further 380 Northland homes and businesses connected to the UFB network. These will be connected by Northpower Fibre and will improve capacity around Whangarei, Dargaville and Mangawhai Heads.

Where it is economic, the expansion means fibre. Yet the ministers say the funds can go to any broadband technology and will include wireless.