'Lifestyle' Nelson has the IT knowledge

Nelson councils and businesses are working together to build an IT cluster.

Nelson councils and businesses are working together to build an IT cluster.

The Tasman Bay area already contains an estimated 80 IT firms, but local business chamber Commerce Nelson hopes to attract and create more.

The cluster project was launched late last year under the banner “Knowledge Nelson”. More than 80 businesspeople and companies have attended various meetings and reports have been produced on the prospects of such a cluster in the city.

One report by Heather Voaden of Wellington’s Victoria University says the “emerging” Nelson IT cluster “is experiencing huge growth”. Nelson also has “a strong pool of computer services and software businesses and skilled people in the region”, she says. “Favourable lifestyle conditions and a friendly business environment are also considerable strengths.”

However, the report says businesses do not trust each other enough to work together for each others’ benefit, there are few exporters, and the domestic market is not big enough for some of the specialist companies. Voaden called for more inter-firm cooperation and building the export base using other Nelson businesses.

Jeffrey Coleman of Knowledge Nelson says the organisation has three initiatives to help overcome barriers to the growth of IT businesses in the city.

A telecomms strategy paper is due by year-end to ensure businesses are aware of the facilities available in the city. Clear currently offers 32Mbit/s via radio links and is putting in 620Mbit/s via fibre. Telecom is also improving links from Levin and Cable Bay.

A relaunched website is due in April telling people about Knowledge Nelson and what the city has to offer potential investors. Calendars, due next month, will detail the businesses already here, Coleman says.

Meanwhile, the Nelson-Marlborough Institute of Technology is backing the cluster, offering two three-year programmes: a Bachelor of Information Technology and a National Diploma in Business Computing.

Tasman district councillor John Rogers, an engineer who chaired the launch, says Nelson suffers from slow Telecom links for internet access in the city but fibre optic and wireless links being developed will improve matters.

Bill Irwin of Vista Software calls Knowledge Nelson “a great idea”. However, he wonders if the campaign might have bigger success if it worked together more with Wellington’s cluster project.

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