Partnerships to Tackle Cyclone Network Damage

When Cyclone Gabrielle devastated parts of the upper North Island in February 2023, REANNZ faced a massive challenge to keep the network available to researchers and educators in the affected areas.

Fibre cuts caused the loss of the network in Napier, Rotorua and Taupo, affecting all the users in that region but also taking out the eastern ladder of the core network. Our key focus was to get the network back up and running as soon as possible, so users could get back to work when immediate problems such as loss of power and water were overcome.

Our people’s tenacity, ingenuity and excellent relationship skills really come to the fore in situations such as these. To mitigate against the possible loss of the Western path of the network which would impact the wider national network, we negotiated with our business partner Feenix to stand up a backup network path from Christchurch to Auckland.

Our team of engineers are available 24 hours a day for emergencies. They used their technical expertise and worked intensively with our colleagues in the telcos to devise workarounds to get parts of the network restored as quickly as possible, all while managing a covid outbreak back at the office and rolling out the new optical network with One NZ.

The fieldwork involved a lot of courage from the telco engineers, travelling by car in sometimes hazardous conditions, to identify cable breaks and put in place temporary solutions – while other emergency workers around them were also busy restoring water and power, rescuing people trapped in their homes and starting to clear landslips and roads.

Meanwhile, a scheduled network rollout in Tauranga, due to be in place two months after the cyclone hit, was expedited. Our team negotiated with incoming provider One NZ to implement the new connection more quickly, rapidly restoring the eastern path network to reduce the jeopardy on the whole network.

The Tauranga work was part of a larger network refresh with One NZ – and the full work programme was able to be completed on time in April 2023. This involved close collaboration by our people at REANNZ and our partners at One NZ.

Good communication was the final lynchpin of the successful REANNZ response. Members and users were updated regularly as our people and our business partners battled to restore the network.

This tireless customer focus is summed up well by Yeshaswini Ramesh, Head of Network Operations, at REANNZ: “We do this for our members. We want to do everything we can to make sure they are not impacted by network outages including those caused by huge weather events like Cyclone Gabrielle. We will always do as much as possible to keep the network up and running.”

Yeshaswini added: “We owe our thanks to the telco community who went above and beyond to help restore network access for our users. It’s at times like these that the strength of these relationships really matters.”

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