$250,000 request for Gigatown project

Dunedin city councillors will be asked this week to provide $250,000, including funding for two full-time equivalent jobs, to make sure the city makes the most of its Gigatown win.

The council's economic development and city marketing arm, Enterprise Dunedin, has argued the city needs to continue its commitment to the city's digital future.''

To do nothing is probably not a good option,'' director John Christie said yesterday.

A report on the issue will be discussed during the draft long-term plan (LTP) hearings that began on Wednesday.

It came with plans for year one of the Gigatown access, including free wireless ultra-fast broadband (UFB) in the Octagon, at Forsyth Barr Stadium and in other city sites.

The call for an extra $185,000 of funding, on top of $65,000 funding that has gone to the city's Digital Office, has come late in the day, in terms of the long-term plan.

That, Mr Christie said, was because Dunedin was named the winner only late last year.

Dunedin won the Chorus competition in late November, after a massive online push from residents and supporters that lifted the city above its five competitors to the top of the competition.

The win means Dunedin will get ultra-fast 1 gigabit per second broadband at a cheaper rate for three years, and funding for $700,000 of UFB-related initiatives.

The Digital Community Trust, which emerged from the city's digital strategy in 2010, is planning to launch an implementation process on February 25.

Mr Christie said in his report there was a window during which Dunedin could position itself for the economic advantage the win presented.

The draft LTP had been put together before the city had won the competition, and budgets did not take it into account.

The report suggested the trust should continue governance of the initiative, with the possibility of two trustees being appointed by the council.

The trust would be responsible for overseeing delivery and implementation of projects, account for the use of funds, and be responsible for seeking funding from other sources.

Other potential sources included the University of Otago and Otago Polytechnic, the Otago Community Trust, businesses and internet service providers.

The council's Digital Office, set up by the council in 2011 to develop Dunedin's goals, would ''form a project implementation office''.

Mr Christie said yesterday that without funding, and without people to do the work, projects floundered.

''We need to fund someone who gets up every day and says, `This is my job, to make this happen'.''

The funding proposal, he said, was ''a very modest request''.

An attached report from the trust said projects for year one included establishing a Gigatown headquarters, and working with Chorus to accelerate the roll-out of the fibre network.

Only 40% of the city was connected, and the trust wanted a further 20% this year.

Free wireless UFB sites would include the Octagon, the stadium, Dunedin International Airport, Dunedin Public Libraries and museums.

david.loughrey@odt.co.nz

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