Telecommunications in South Westland were coming back on-line
just before noon today after a storm washed out the Wanganui
Bridge near Harihari.
The only fibre optic cable to the area was washed out with
the bridge yesterday, leaving South Westlanders cut off from
phone, and internet. Some cellphone towers were also damaged.
Westland District Council civil defence officer John
Bainbridge said that Telecom was installing a replacement
section of phone line.
"They may need to fly the line across with a helicopter," he
said. "I do know that joining fibre optic cable is not a
An employee at the general store in Harihari said the phone
and internet came back on about 11.30am. Two helicopters were
seen in the area throughout the morning.
In Franz Josef Glacier, Full of Beans Cafe supervisor Neil
Mason said their phone and Eftpos machine were back on-line
The storm drove away a lot of business over the last several
days. "We lost a lot of bookings. It's a hell of a time for
that to happen, but there's nothing you can do about the
While phone lines were down, small towns in South Westland
had to improvise to communicate outside the region, including
contact with emergency services.
Mr Bainbridge said there were satellite phones located in Fox
Glacier, Franz Josef Glacier and Haast. "The problem is none
of the satellite phones will recognise 111. You've got to
know the emergency services' direct dial number to be able to
talk to someone."
Small communities like Harihari, Whataroa and Okarito had
their own radio telephone networks and looked after
themselves. "What this has shown is just how resilient these
communities really are."