Maori 'should have share of spectrum'

By Dana Kinita

Potaua Biasiny-Tule
Potaua Biasiny-Tule

A Rotorua digital entrepreneur says Maori should have a share in the 4G spectrum which will be vital in the next generation of mobile telecommunications.

Potaua Biasiny-Tule said it was frustrating to hear Maori were not included in the allocation of the 700MHz radio spectrum, which will be available with the switchover from analogue TV to digital this year. Mr Biasiny-Tule is the chief executive of and co-project manager of Google Maori.

The Government is scheduled to start auctioning the spectrum airways, suitable for 4G mobile broadband, on October 29 with the reserve price set at $198 million.

The spectrum licences will last for 18 years and are expected to be bought by Vodafone, Telecom and 2degrees to support the launch of rural 4G mobile networks.

Communications and Information Technology Minister Amy Adams yesterday welcomed a Waitangi Tribunal decision not to grant an urgent hearing regarding Maori interests in the spectrum.

"The Tribunal decision notes that the Crown has already had the benefit of the Tribunal's advice on earlier, similar claims in making its decision regarding the allocation of spectrum," Ms Adams said.

Mr Biasiny-Tule said the process has angered many Maori information and communication technology (ICT) workers.

"By promoting a process that heavily favours large telcos like Telecom and Vodafone, the spectrum has been turned from a collectively held state right into a now individualised property right, able to be sold and transferred to the highest bidder," he said. "Maori are cut out from participating in this new industry and watch as international corporates determine how local communities interact with these new technologies."

He said there was precedent for Maori to make a valid claim for access to the digital spectrum.

Maori had signalled to the Government that selling a collective state right and turning it into an individual property right has precedent - as seen with fisheries quota management allocation.

"In reply, various Government agencies have cited that spectrum was unknown when the Treaty was signed, cannot be considered a taonga and is exempt from Maori claims."

Ms Adams said the Government had a number of initiatives under way to ensure Maori had access to the benefits of digital technology and it was investigating the creation of a $30 million ICT development fund for Maori.

Mr Biasiny-Tule said: "In the scheme of things, such a fund is sorely needed by Maori IT whanau.

"Even though the industry is seen as a lucrative driver for economic development, in the Maori world it sits behind the giants of forests, farms, education, social services and fishing."

Mr Biasiny-Tule said there was no easy solution as Maori can either take the $30 million or fight for the spectrum and likely lose.

- Rotorua Daily Post

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