The Australian government is being urged to fund the extension to Norfolk Island of the $US300m Hawaiki Cable that will link Australia, New Zealand and Hawaii to the US.
Ben Howard, who describes himself as “an Australian IT professional with a long family connection to Norfolk Island and a strong interest in the wellbeing of the island,” has written to the Australian prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull “to see if plans were underway and if not then why not” to fund the “tiny 90km distance” to Norfolk Island from the 13,800km cable systems planned route.
His initiative follows efforts by the Norfolk Island Council to get the Australian government to accept Hawaiki’s proposal for such an extension.
At a meeting in late September the Norfolk Island Regional Council passed a motion calling on the general manager as a matter of urgency to lobby Australia’s minister for regional communications, Fiona Nash in support of the project.
Norfolk Islands mayor, Robin Adams said: “The Hawaiki fibre optic broadband proposal was discussed with Senator Nash when Council met with her last Friday and by letter to me on Wednesday the senator has requested Council provide her with further detail on the proposal including a business case setting out the parameters of the project, the implementation arrangements and risks, and the expected benefits to the Regional Council and the Norfolk Island community.”
Adams said Nash had been provided with a copy of a ‘Proposed Scope and Offer’ from Hawaiki detailing the contractual model – including finance, build and operation – proposed by Hawaiki, a draft supply and installation agreement; and a paper detailing the ‘Advantages of Cable over Satellite’ requested by the senator.
In his letter Howard says: “I have spent five weeks on the island this year, exploring the question of the very rare opportunity to connect fibre-optic cable to Norfolk Island.”
He claims that a cable would reduce the annual cost to the Commonwealth Government of telecommunications for the island and is “the only way to meet the tourism, economic and educational needs of the island going forward.”
He adds: “ The cable cannot be connected later - a review of the opportunity must be made now. Failure to properly investigate this opportunity will be seen as a failure of the Norfolk Island reform process and a failure by the Australian Government in its responsibilities to promote sustainability and economic growth, and deliver improved services as outlined in its own economic development plans.”
Howard has issued a press release from a company TriWorlds Pty Ltd and provided a link to a very basic web site where he has provided maps and other documents in support of his case.
When Hawaiki announced commencement of construction of its system at the end of March 2016. It issued a map showing extensions to several Pacific Islands and said:there were “options to expand to several South Pacific islands.”