GigCity opportunity ‘squandered’

Ian Taylor.
Ian Taylor.
Dunedin has squandered its opportunity to market itself as New Zealand’s "giga city", instead developing a reputation as a whining, whinging town, city businessman Ian Taylor said yesterday.

Chorus announced it would extend its gigabit (1Gbps) residential and SME business fibre broadband service across its entire ultra-fast broadband footprint from October 1.

Gig services were launched in  Dunedin in February last year when the city won a national competition to be the first giga city in the country.

Mr Taylor, who played a major part in securing the win by organising a $70,000 advertising campaign, said the city had failed to secure its title as the first giga city in the southern hemisphere because people did not know what they were doing.

"I likened it to the Dunedin which was the first ship to transport refrigerated meat from New Zealand to England. That changed the economy of a small country at the bottom of the world and made us rich.

"The Dunedin created a new highway to the rest of the world and we had the opportunity to open a new highway with bright minds of young people — punching above our weight in a ‘light weight’ economy. And we blew it."

John Gallaher.
John Gallaher.
GigCity spokesman John Gallaher disagreed and said Dunedin still had some significant advantages, including a pricing benefit lasting until December 2018.

The city received $800,000 of funding to develop innovative businesses and community services and still  had about $400,000 left.

Apart from business start-ups in Vogel St, the Methodist Mission had developed an education program, another program had been developed for dyslexic children and a health and safety app had been developed.

Chorus had provided support by taking a substantial amount of time off the rollout, meaning 70% of the city was now covered by the fibre network, he said.

Dunedin was given an infrastructure build which was there for a long time and GigCity gave Dunedin the opportunity to think more aspirationally about itself, he said.

Mr Taylor, the managing director of global technology company Animation Research Ltd, spoke at the New Zealand First conference held in the city at the weekend.

He talked about Dunedin’s opportunity to show the rest of New Zealand how the regions could contribute to the country’s economy through technology.

The opportunities were there for Oamaru and Timaru to embrace fast broadband and develop their economies.

Instead of whining and whinging about how the Government was spending lots of money in Auckland, Dunedin should have thanked the Government for the ultra-fast broadband and shown the rest of the country what could be done, Mr Taylor said in an interview.

"We should have pushed on with it. The Government would look down at what we had achieved and pushed it out to the rest of the country. We should be helping Auckland becoming the city it should be."

Mr Taylor laid most of the blame with the Dunedin City Council, which he said did not provide as much support as it should.

"Councillors were down getting their photos taken when we won. Where did they go to after that?"

Otago Chamber of Commerce chief executive Dougal McGowan gave Dunedin a C-plus pass mark for its efforts to maximise its gigabit advantage, but admitted under questioning the city probably did not make the most of its opportunities.

There were a variety of reasons for the failure, including infrastructure issues and there being no comprehensive plan sitting behind the campaign that could have been introduced as soon as the competition had been won.

"To get the advantage, we needed to have a plan straight away. UFB is not about businesses getting emails faster and replying faster."

Messrs Taylor and McGowan both agreed there was still time for Dunedin to glean some advantage from being the first city in the southern hemisphere to have gigabit speeds.

Mr Taylor did not believe there was the will in the city to push the advantage and said broadband speed in the Octagon was a joke.

When he told an audience of 23,000 IBM staff about his broadband speed in his Dunedin home and compared it with the speed in the Las Vegas hotel where he was speaking, they were in awe, but "the council just didn’t get it."

Mr McGowan said Dunedin was aware of the infrastructure problems it faced getting the UFB rollout  done in the city.

Other centres might face the same problem, giving Dunedin an advantage.

Mr Gallaher said  branding the city was not a five-minute process. It was about repositioning Dunedin as a 21st-century city.

"We are learning a whole lot of things are now possible. ... This is more than 50 people developing computer games down in Vogel St."


Part of being a 'gig-city' is attracting businesses that can utilise the bandwidth to their advantage. That doesn't happen overnight. I wonder how long it took 'smart city' Chattanooga to achieve all that it has. It would be great if Dunedin could get a smart electricity grid, but I am guessing it would take more than the $400,000 left.

DCC took about 3 months to decide if they would even support "gigacity" after Dunedin won the competition. Nope, it was too big a question for them to decide BEFORE Dunedin won. DCC are simply always in reaction mode, never proactive. Poor management and weak councilors.

And seriously Mr Gallaher, you have a grand two applications developed and failed to distribute half the seed money. If this doesn't describe a slow response which simply missed the target I don't know what does.

Ian Taylor should have been standing for Mayor of Dunedin. He would win hands-down.

Ironically, the only person I've heard whining and whinging is Ian Taylor. It's unclear what he wants done and by whom.

Gigcity was oversold, it was a big advertising gimmick by Chorus. Businesses in the CBD could get Gig speed previously, as is the case of most other CBDs in New Zealand. For most of us, it is actually about getting faster email and faster download speed. It's a super highway to the edge of town.