Quake highlights communication issues on the farm

10:15 am on 23 November 2016

Keeping communication channels open has been a real problem for rural areas hit by last week's quake, says Federated Farmers.

Power lines in the flats of Kaikoura

Power and phone lines were brought down by last week's quake. Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

Many farms have been cut off by slips and there are still phonelines down, power outages and no cell phone reception across North Canterbury and Kaikoura, following the 7.8 magnitude quake that struck near Hanmer Springs on 14 November.

Federated Farmers spokesperson Anders Crofoot said the quake highlighted the fact that communication was still an issue for many rural areas.

"People have been able to communicate, but it has been quite difficult. There's some good programmes in place but I think it certainly could use more attention (from government). The government in the past has been pretty responsive, they are in the midst of rolling out the second version of the rural broadband initiative.

"I would like to see no distinction between urban fibre and rural fibre - it all needs to run fast and we all need access to it."

Mr Crofoot said some rural phonelines were extremely outdated

"One of the things that is turning into an issue for many rural areas is they rely on the old country radio sets which is technology that I'm told is about 50 years old. Unfortunately there has never been an upgrade or a technology replacement for it."

He said they were cost effective to implement, so many areas had them, but the technology was moving on.

"It's getting very hard to find spare parts for them and the technicians that know how to repair them are retiring. Every year I'm hearing of instances where areas are having trouble with them."

Communications Minister Amy Adams said as a consequence of the quakes, a key fibre backbone running along the Kaikoura coast was disrupted at multiple locations.

She said cell phone reception was also a problem.

"Cell sites were compromised by landslides, power and link failure, or became inaccessible. A total of twenty mobile sites went down or were severely degraded, while over 1400 landline and broadband connections faulted due to power and cable disruption which impacted thousands of people."

Ms Adams said work to restore connectivity in Waiau was also complete, after a 1km fibre replacement cable was helicoptered in last week.

She said this meant Waiau residents should now have access to landline services.

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