Aotearoa People's Network

Patea - Supporting the community in times of crisis

The people of Patea have long understood the value of their public library and since a “weather bomb” wreaked havoc in their town they also understand what a difference free APNK Internet can make to their community.

Power and communications lost

Patea is a coastal town in South Taranaki District with a population of around 1000 people. In March 2012 this small town was at the heart of a very big storm with gale force winds causing extensive damage to buildings and trees, and cutting off power to much of the town.

Around 600 power lines in the region went down or were snapped in two and 70 or so homes in Patea were damaged. Some homes lost power for a fortnight and still others continued to be without power for several weeks more.

With cellphone coverage in Patea patchy at the best of times communications were affected as residents’ home phone lines went down. Locals struggled to keep in touch with loved ones or to contact agencies that could help them cope with the fallout of storm damage to both their homes and their businesses.

Library as community hub

Luckily for the people of Patea the local library was without power for only a short period which meant that they could continue to have a means of communicating via the free APNK internet there.

Cath Sheard, Assistant Manager Cultural Services, South Taranaki District Council recalls, “people who suddenly had no home phones were able to come in and connect with Skype and Facebook. It really made a huge difference for people.”

Sheard saw firsthand how the library became a hub with representatives from agencies such as the Ministry for Social Development, Work and Income New Zealand, Victims’ Support, Police and even power companies using the library as a place to make contact with residents, in some cases using APNK Internet to get them filling in forms and submitting claims online.

“The people who were already traumatised, it would have been much, much harder for them [without the APNK service].“

With the library providing a free Internet service to the community residents with damaged homes were able to do simple things like email their insurance companies or let family members in other parts of the country know that they were safe.

Says Sheard of Patea Library’s APNK service, “I think it provided a huge benefit and really gave people a link to the outside world”.

 “In an emergency, boy, what an asset...”

July 2012

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