Iwi interests kotahitanga to monetise wireless spectrum

Representatives of Treaty of Waitangi claimants are working to figure out how wireless spectrum can be collectively monetised. Photo / Bevan Conley / NZME / File

Members of an interim Māori Spectrum Trust (MST) working group are looking at how allocations of communications spectrum to Māori can be turned into income and development in the sector.

The MST has representatives of Treaty of Waitangi claimants and others who are negotiating with government ministers and officials to oversee Māori interests and engagement in radio spectrum, and to reach an enduring solution.

Kotahitanga movements are Māori political movements that try to unify Māori on a non-tribal basis

The claimant groups are Ngā Kaiwhakapūmau i Te Reo (Wellington Māori Language Board), the New Zealand Māori Council, groups with a long association with Māori interests in spectrum including Te Huarahi Tika Trust, Māori telecommunications industry specialists and the Iwi Chairs Forum.

Peter Fraser, who represents the New Zealand Māori Council, says after decades in which Māori have had to go to the Waitangi Tribunal or the courts whenever a new generation of spectrum was released, they now have an agreement with the Crown that 20 per cent of any future allocation or reallocation will go to Maori.

He says they’re now working on what the new entity will look like.

“Because we’re getting radio spectrum off the Government, we’ve got to put it somewhere. We’ve got to put it into a pataka,” Fraser said on Waatea News.Com.

“So the pataka we’re setting up is a trust and you can almost imagine it a little like a fisheries commission for spectrum, because we’ve got to put it somewhere. So that’s where it goes. That gets some funding from the Government to run for its first five years but after that, it has to be totally self-sufficient and self-funded.”

The 20 per cent quota was announced last year by Communications Minister David Clark and Māori Development Minister Willie Jackson after negotiations with the Māori Spectrum Working Group. They wanted to remove a barrier that had been delaying the auction of 5G spectrum — which will be used by Vodafone, Spark and 2degrees to boost their mobile networks.