Wellington council reconsiders iStation

A plan to provide a 'super kiosk' to the Wellington public for web information access and other services was thought by its creator to have been stymied by Wellington City Council (WCC), until Computerworld made inquiries.

A plan to provide a “super kiosk” to the Wellington public for web information access and other services was thought by its creator to have been stymied by Wellington City Council (WCC), until Computerworld made inquiries.

Graham Bloxham, owner of i4info, the company that designed and produces the iStation, was prepared to give up on siting one in Wellington because the council raised so many objections. “They talked about the location, blocking views, the internal fit-out and competition with local traders.”

The council, however, says it is still prepared to listen to the proposal, provided there are some changes.

Larger than the general run of kiosks, an iStation measures 6m x 2m. Bloxham describes it as “a small building”. It includes touch screens for web access to i4info’s site, as well as a Westpac ATM and a retail and coffee-vending space.

With a large part of its market among tourists, but also hoping to appeal to New Zealanders, the information base covers transport, accommodation, food and wine, entertainment, events and attractions, shopping and “money, law and finance”. Links are provided to other relevant sites, such as Seek for job opportunities and the Weather Workshop for the latest weather forecasts.

The i4info company plans to set iStations up in several cities around New Zealand, including one in Manners Mall, an unroofed pedestrian shopping precinct close to Wellington’s central business district. The council, however, has made the proposed building “notifiable”, which involves two opportunities for public comment and possibly a hearing before the Environment Court. That process might take as long as two years, says Bloxham.

Other councils are much more accommodating, he says, with a lot of promise in Auckland, where i4info has one iStation already and the council has granted resource consent for three more, and in Queenstown, where the council seems “positive”.

“Basically, I think they [WCC] just don’t like the idea,” Bloxham said when he first spoke to Computerworld last month.

WCC urban designer Andrew Bristol rebuts this suggestion. “Some of [Bloxham’s] ideas we liked a lot,” he says, including the basic concept of an online information kiosk. “We were not happy with the exterior appearance [of the kiosk]. It’s not the kind of quality we wanted, we thought it should be a stylish piece of street furniture.” Possible competition with other coffee vendors and similar “street vendors” in the area is also a matter for consideration, Bristol says.

Bloxham said he had not personally been in contact with Bristol and will now approach him to renew discussion.

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