Cheating charge, denial as Gigatown contest fortunes alter

Oamaru residents have alleged cheating by their online opponents from Wanaka in a social media competition to get the southern hemisphere's fastest internet.

However, those driving Wanaka's campaign to win the Chorus nationwide Gigatown community competition say they have ''stuck to the rules''.

Until yesterday, Oamaru was the frontrunner for the Gigatown title, which will earn the residents of the winning town access to a one gigabit-per-second internet connection.

After starting the week in fourth position, Wanaka knocked Oamaru from the top spot yesterday, a change in fortune which did not sit well with the North Otago town's Gigatown supporters.

To gain Gigatown points, people must use their town-specific ''hashtag'' - for example #GIGATOWNWKA - in references to that town on social media. The points are adjusted for population size.

An announcement on the Gigatown Oamaru Facebook page yesterday cast doubt over Wanaka's ''meteoric rise'' in the rankings by stating ''we are uncertain as to the validity of those points''.

A stream of comments from unhappy Oamaru supporters followed, many suggesting spamming was behind Wanaka's success.

Gigatown Wanaka supporter Hayley Purnell responded to the backlash with: ''Ouch Oamaru, we're above cheating - nothing stops the #gigatownwanaka community working together to achieve something!''

Peter Marshall, a member of the team behind Wanaka's Gigatown bid, said the sudden jump in points was because Wanaka's points allocation had originally been based on the entire Queenstown Lakes district population, but had been adjusted earlier this week to reflect the town's much smaller size.

Suggestions of cheating were ''ridiculous'', as any online activity breaking the competition rules was picked up by Chorus and points were deducted accordingly, he said.

''Oamaru, bless their hearts, I've noticed a bit of negative stuff ... which I was quite surprised at. They must have seen that we're eventually going to beat them anyway whether we got adjusted or not because we've just got an organisational plan that works.''

Wanaka-based social media consultant Jamie Roy told the Otago Daily Times the population adjustment had put all towns on an even playing field and he doubted spamming was a factor.

''When they [Oamaru] were in the front they were always trying to defend themselves saying nothing was going on at their end, they were all sticking by the rules, and as far as my knowledge is concerned we've stuck to the rules as well.''

Gigatown Oamaru ambassador Derek Golding said while the recalculation of Wanaka's points was fair and deserved, some Gigatown participants had been generating points unfairly by tagging large volumes of photos.

''There are some people in Wanaka, there are some people in Oamaru, there are some people in all the towns who are not following the rules and that's why we're seeing sudden increases and sudden decreases on people's pages across the board,'' Mr Golding said.

''We don't really have a problem with Wanaka overtaking us, because we're going to overtake back.''

He urged people who were new to the competition to check the rules before participating.

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