Crown signs over quarter share of 5G spectrum to Māori

Photo / Bevan Conley / NZME

The Crown has handed over the 5G frequencies allocation set aside for Māori to the Māori spectrum working group at a signing ceremony in Wellington on Wednesday.

‘Today marks the vesting of a share of important 5G telecommunications frequencies in a Māori Spectrum entity," the working group's co-convenor Antony Royal said in a release.

Royal said new legislation was coming shortly that would enshrine a negotiated agreement of 20 per cent of all future spectrum allocations for telecommunications to Māori.

"The results of this, for Māori participation in the telecommunications industry, will be huge," he said.

"Māori will be the owner of major spectrum assets, able to innovate, to enter joint ventures, to initiate research, and create training and business opportunities in the tech world."

He anticipates the legislation would be presented to Parliament before October's general election and told he was not concerned a change of government might curtail these plans.

First reading before election

"It won't get through into its final reading before the election but we're aiming to get it introduced prior to the election," Royal said on Thursday.

"I'm pretty sure most people realise that this is not only good for Māori, it's also good for Aotearoa as a whole. And we're more than willing to have conversations with people about why this is good for Aotearoa. I don't personally have any particular concerns but we're always open to conversations."

In May, Communications Minister Ginny Andersen confirmed the working group would receive a quarter share​ of the 5G spectrum (100 MHz of 400MHz) to manage on behalf of all Māori, as agreed in February 2022 under what was described then as “a historic agreement recognising Māori interests in radio spectrum”.

Royal said the group's focus was on building capacity in the telecommunications sector.

"We've still got quite a bit of work to do to build our capacity for Māori in telecommunications. We obviously have some commercial aspirations that we'd like to try and achieve but alongside that is actually developing our skills and capability amongst Māori - all the way from radio engineers through to others who participate in the industry," he said.

"We're pretty keen on figuring out how we build a long-term workforce for the telco sector. This is a sector that's not well catered for in Aotearoa and we think that Māori have a contribution to make."

Whatarangi Winiata saluted

Royal paid tribute to Whatarangi Winiata in the lead-up to the ceremony at Te Puni Kōkiri house in Wellington, acknowledging that the distinguished kaumātua "drove these claims on behalf of Māori".

"Today, marks a significant recognition of the [Waitangi] Tribunal recommendations in these claims, allocations by right to Māori, and a vehicle for Māori to take on the work at a national level. We now await the introduction in coming weeks of the new legislation and the permanent establishment of the new entity," Royal said in Wednesday's release.

The working group's members represent a coalition of the NZ Māori Council, the Iwi Chairs Forum, Te Huarahi Tika Trust (whose aim is to increase Māori participation in the knowledge economy), Ngā Kaiwhakapūmau i Te Reo (the organisation that took the Māori language claim to the Waitangi Tribunal) and the Māori tech industry.