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Small town maintains pioneering streak

Published: 9:18PM Saturday May 02, 2009 Source: ONE News

A small town in Otago with a rich past has just hooked into the information super highway thanks to a visionary local.

Lawrence, 90 kilometres south of Dunedin, was Otago's first gold rush town and is now the first in New Zealand to wi-fi its main district without charge to users.

"We wanted to make internet available along the main street," local resident Nina Arron says.

There is a cap on excessive downloads, but the service is completely free and anyone can use the computers in the local cafes. People can also bring along their your own laptop, as long as it has wireless mode.

"Our aim is to have people stop here...spend more time...come and see what we've got. Lawrence is a great little town," Arron says.

The system cost about $3000 to set up and costs $65 a month to maintain and local businessman Jim Robertson was happy to help out.

"I  just wanted to see it happen, so we just went ahead and did it," he says.

It's a new set up, but the free wireless is already proving to be a hit and to top it all off, the town is offering free international calls from their visitor centre.

"We're importing these Skype phones from the US, and it reaches 44 countries around the world," local resident Pat Robertson says.

Tourists have given the scheme the thumbs up, saying it's really good for a backpacker to be able to ring home, put pictures on the internet and keep in touch with friends and family for free.