Government funding to boost Canterbury broadband and agriculture

The government is to provide $1.6 million funding to the Canterbury region to support a goal of having 95 percent of farmers in the region connected to broadband services and to boost the value of agricultural production in the region.

The funding will be provided though what the government calls two “workstreams”: a digital connectivity workstream and a value added production workstream.

The plan is part of a refresh of the Canterbury Regional Economic Development Strategy, and was announced jointly by communications minister Simon Bridges and primary industries minister Nathan Guy. The strategy also includes a programme to ensure local government manages planning and consenting processes, as well as infrastructure.

The government said the digital connectivity workstream would “partner with government to focus on gathering region-specific information on any gaps in coverage to see where efforts can be better focused and on promoting the uptake and use of digital technology across the region.”

Bridges said: “Canterbury has identified connectivity as vital to economic growth and the digital connectivity workstream will actively complement the government’s existing national broadband programmes and our Building a Digital Nation action plan.

“A key focus is around reducing the digital divide between town and country, particularly given rural Canterbury generates much of the prosperity of the region.”

He added: “We want to encourage businesses, particularly those in rural areas to get on board with faster broadband by sharing success stories of how it’s making a difference.

“For example, for farmers, improved connectivity helps them gather data to farm smarter – using technology for environmental monitoring, such as effluent and water control, and for online shopping.

“This workstream aims to have 95 per cent of farms accessing broadband by June 2019. We want a fully connected Canterbury where the whole region can thrive,” Bridges said.

The government said the value-added production workstream would focus on:

  • Working with central government to identify value-add opportunities, particularly in China and South-East Asia;
  • Consulting and engaging with South Island economic development agencies on establishing an economic virtual policy unit;
  • Connecting industry needs to research; and
  • Accelerated knowledge transition to high-value production and manufacturing for export.

Guy said the value-added production workstream would help the government to achieve its goal of doubling the value of primary sector exports by 2025.

“Canterbury is one of the world’s great food baskets with a highly productive agriculture sector, and the refreshed Strategy highlights the importance of increasing the value of what we produce,” he said.

 “The strategy also supports the uptake of digital technologies and smart use of irrigation and freshwater management.”

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