23 Feb 2013

Decision to deny Maori spectrum rights 'arrogant'

9:02 pm on 23 February 2013

The Government's decision not to allocate part of a radio spectrum to Maori groups is being described as arrogant by one of the claimants.

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.

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.

Despite not committing to a spectrum allocation for Treaty partners, the Government is investigating the possibility of setting up a $30 million information communications technology fund for tangata whenua.

It says any fund could provide opportunities such as scholarships and helping marae to be better connected.

Long history of trying to obtain spectrum

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.