Coverage loss a ‘frustrating’ blow for businesses

Contractors work to temporarily replace the damaged section of fibre cable that left more than...
Contractors work to temporarily replace the damaged section of fibre cable that left more than 3500 Westland residents without any mobile, landline or internet services for two days.PHOTO: JANNA SHERMAN
Frustrated business owners are questioning why there is no backup cell and internet cable for Westland after the region lost coverage during Sunday’s storm, and for the second time in 10 months.

The sun was shining and Hokitika should have been buzzing with people yesterday — but losing cell and internet coverage instead highlighted the region’s vulnerability.

Hokitika to Franz Josef was offline for over 30 hours, before services were restored about 2pm on Tuesday.

Take Note Hokitika owner Robyn Cuff said Chorus needed to find a solution so it did not happen again.

Customers were rare in the corner store yesterday and scanning the Covid-19 app proved problematic for some.

‘‘Our offline service is not working and some people don’t have the cash — it’s frustrating,’’ she said.

‘‘Covid-19 was bad enough but to have this on top of it ... we are lucky we have power on.’’

There was one seated customer in Cafe 39, where Leah Grant was managing with single-use offline eftpos and hoping her regulars remained loyal.

With the eftpos and public cash machines down, some customers were travelling to Greymouth to get cash, she said.

‘‘It just goes to show how much we rely on it.

‘‘It’s been two hours and it’s like a real disaster.’’

Hokitika Discounter store owner Gaurang Savaliya said every sale was taking longer.

‘‘Customers cannot pay by eftpos so we are turning people away because we can only take cash and losing money.

‘‘There needs to be a backup contingency plan in place to make sure this does not happen again.’’

Westland Pharmacist and owner Graham Provis said running the business was much harder without cellphone and internet coverage.

Completing prescriptions, making up orders, checking stock levels and taking payments were done manually and made all the more difficult.

Customers from outside the affected region had been surprised at the need to pay by cash.

The lack of a local reaction to the outage was disappointing, Mr Provis said.

‘‘It’s been harder to do jobs and we have lost revenue.

‘‘We have staff to pay and they cannot do their jobs because we cannot access what we need to function.’’

— Helen Murdoch, Greymouth Star

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