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The Otago Polytechnic-led project is one of three pilot programmes, part of its "sustainable community enterprise project", which it intends will provide students with learning opportunities while benefiting the community and increasing the polytechnic's revenue.
The polytechnic has partnered Dunedin internet service provider Unifone, business association Vision Port Chalmers and Port Otago in setting up Wi-Fi access, which would be offered free of charge to anyone - not just cruise ship passengers - on the wharf and around the main street in time for the arrival of Sea Princess next Sunday.
Otago Polytechnic information technology professor Samuel Mann yesterday told the polytechnic's council the project provided a great learning opportunity for its students, with business students working on the business case for the project and other students getting hands-on experience by helping install the infrastructure.
The project also had clear benefits for the community and would generate revenue for the polytechnic - with passengers who stayed on board cruise ships charged to use the Wi-Fi, Prof Mann said.
Half the money generated would go towards the polytechnic, with the other half going towards a trust, which would invest the money in Port Chalmers.
"It is win, win, win," he said.
Vision Port Chalmers member Peter Cole said he was confident the offer of free Wi-Fi would result in more passengers coming into the township.
"It's going to encourage people to get off the boat and they are going to come and sit in the cafes and bars and they might spend some money.
"It's going to be a real boost to Port Chalmers," Mr Cole said.
Prof Mann outlined two other pilot programmes at the meeting: a plan to build a low-cost wind turbine on the roof of the polytechnic's computing block and an initiative to derive resources from electronic waste.
Polytechnic chief executive Phil Ker praised the overall project, calling it "spot on".
After the meeting, Prof Mann said he hoped the pilot programmes would be the start of a new polytechnic drive to gain learning and revenue openings from its community projects.