A new set of National Environment Standards for Telecommunications Facilities (NESTF) will come into effect as of 1 January 2017.

For those who aren’t aware, the NESTF are designed to facilitate the deployment of new telecommunications infrastructure in New Zealand. They do so by permitting the installation of certain low-impact infrastructure without resource consent. The equipment that is “permitted” under the NESTF is shown to have little environmental impact and so installers are not required to go through the ordinary process for obtaining consent under the Resource Management Act 1991.

The Government recognises that there has been significant development in telecommunications technology since the current NESTF was adopted in 2008. To ensure the relevancy of the NESTF, changes will expand the range of “permitted” telecommunications infrastructure that can be deployed in New Zealand without resource consent. There is no doubt that local fibre companies who are currently working to roll out the Government’s Ultra-Fast Broadband Initiative in New Zealand will welcome the changes under the new NESTF. The Initiative is striving for at least 80% of New Zealand to have access to ultra-fast-broadband (UFB) by 2022. A UFB connection typically provides download speeds of up to 100Mbps and can perform at up to 1000Mbps.

The loosened NESTF will also assist in the roll out of the Government’s Rural Broadband Initiative. As it is not feasible to provide UFB to every rural community, the Rural Broadband Initiative seeks to provide broadband internet speeds of at least 5Mbps to more than 90% of homes and businesses outside of UFB areas. The impact of the new NESTF in reducing costs of implementing these Initiatives will therefore be significant. According to Environment Minister, Nick Smith, the changes to the NESTF will “…save consumers and ratepayers millions of dollars”. It remains to be seen whether this will ultimately drive the price of internet down.