Whangārei-based National MP Dr Shane Reti has again appealed to tech billionaire Elon Musk for help. Photo / Bevan Conley
National MP Dr Shane Reti says at the end of the day if you don’t ask you don’t get.
Hence his, so far unanswered, plea on Twitter for controversial tech billionaire Elon Musk to send “several hundred” Starlink terminals to a wounded New Zealand.
But Kiwis have pointed out that kits for Starlink – which delivers broadband via a satellite – are available here at home.
Reti threw his appeal into the Twitterverse on February 15 when the severe impacts of Cyclone Gabrielle were starting to fully emerge in the upper North Island.
The death toll stood at four, vast swathes of land were under water and impacted regions were loaded with power outages.
“To Elon Musk. You heard the call of myself and others and provided Starlink to Tonga in their time of need. Thank you,” Reti wrote.
“The time of need is now in NZ with the worst cyclone in a century. We need bulk shipment of several hundred terminals. Can you assist please.”
To Elon Musk. You heard the call of myself and others and provided Starlink to Tonga in their time of need. Thank you. The time of need is now in NZ with the worst cyclone in a century. We need bulk shipment of several hundred terminals. Can you assist please. MP Dr Shane Reti
— Dr Shane Reti (@DrShaneRetiMP) February 15, 2023
The Whangārei-based MP said he hadn’t yet heard back from Musk.
But Reti had kept his expectations realistic even though Musk came through for him when made a similar request for Tonga after last year’s devastating eruption.
Although Reti acknowledged the two countries had different circumstances.
But still: “at the end of the day, everyone understands that if you don’t ask, you don’t get,” he said.
Reti didn’t immediately reach out to Musk.
He said while at caucus a Stuff journalist asked him if he had “contacted Elon yet”. That led him to the country’s satellite specialists who he asked whether the supply was useful and needed.
“The specialists came back and said yes, you can ask for a bulk shipment.”
And people affected by the cyclone had been pleased he thought to reach out to Musk, Reti said.
But many had commented on Reti’s Twitter thread to say that Noel Leeming stocked Starlink kits – as does 2degrees.
In fact, Nema had flown 18 Starlink kits into Gisborne, Napier and Wairoa, while East Coast iwi Ngāti Porou delivered 31 Starlink kits via a small chartered plane to connect remote communities.
Consulting telco engineer Jonathan Brewer said the need for Starlink kits in places like Hawke’s Bay and East Cape was “relatively brief”.
“As the fibre has been connected back to cell towers and so on the Starlink terminals have been removed and moved onto other places fairly quickly.”
Brewer said a big problem had been power and fibre optic – not necessarily the access networks.
But the terminals would be useful if people had a generator or backup battery system or “very useful” in areas that had working power but no working fibre optic, he said.
“Starlink has a great name and a great brand and great brand recognition, it’s by no means the only solution. It is a great solution but there are a lot of other solutions out there.
“Starlink is meant to be a terminal for home or business use. It’s not meant to connect a network back to the rest of the country.”
Brewer said there were other satellite products out there that were designed to provide back-up service to networks for when the fibre optic breaks.