23 Feb 2013

Maori coalition determined to secure spectrum rights

9:02 pm on 23 February 2013

The Maori Spectrum Coalition says it has no option but to return to the Waitangi Tribunal or to court to secure radio spectrum rights.

It is calling on the Crown to rethink its response to Treaty partners after the Government decided not to allocate part of a broadcasting band to claimants.

The coalition says it does not want to return to court or impose further on the tribunal but the Crown's behaviour means there is no other option.

The switchover to digital television has freed up the 700 megahertz broadcasting spectrum, which is to be used for fourth generation (4G) mobile phone technology.

The Government has confirmed the spectrum will be auctioned off by the Crown in October this year and none will be set aside for Maori, but it says it might make a $30 million technology fund available to help promote and support the Maori language and culture.

But the coalition complains that response reveals a narrow view and limits the Maori contribution to the nation.

It says the expression 'Kia Maori 24/7' is about being Maori all day, every day - which includes the management of radio spectrum - to reach out to all New Zealanders, particularly Maori.

Govt position "arrogant"

One of the claimants to the spectrum, Graeme Everton, says he's not being considered as a Treaty partner.

He says it's an incredibly arrogant position by the Government, which has ignored opportunities that would have come from working with Maori claimants.

Mr Everton says a new claim will be taken to the Waitangi Tribunal, a move claimants predicted they would have to make.

For years, a coalition of Treaty partners has been attempting to secure a piece of the 700 megahertz band. Maori groups continue to argue the technology is a taonga or a treasure.

The Government says the spectrum is not a taonga, a position it says is in line with previous administrations.

The minister responsible for the decision, Amy Adams, says a portion of the spectrum does not need to be set aside to meet what she calls shared objectives to protect Maori language and culture.

The Maori Party says the decision not to supply Maori groups with a portion of the broadcasting band shows a complete disregard to an earlier Waitangi Tribunal report on radio spectrum and international law on indigenous rights.

Co-leader Tariana Turia says claimants offered a solution to receive shares, but the Government didn't back it.

She warns that the days of the Government continuing to take resources that clearly were in Aotearoa before any Government was established are fast coming to an end.