Delays to $30m Maori ICT Development Fund cause frustration
A $30 million Maori ICT development fund has been delayed after a governance botch and amid disagreements over how the funds should be spent.
Maori Internet Society chairman Karaitiana Taiuru said the delay meant money was sitting in a bank account when it could be helping the community.
The fund, which is the joint responsibility of Maori Development Minister Te Ururoa Flavell and Communications Minister Amy Adams, was approved by the Government last year.
That was as a consolation prize after the Government rejected a Waitangi Tribunal claim to $270m of radio spectrum that was freed up by the closure of analogue television in 2013.
The fund was first suggested by Vodafone New Zealand chief executive Russell Stanners in 2011.
READ MORE: Maori should get cash from spectrum sale
Maori broadcasting agency Te Mangai Paho announced last year that it had been appointed by the Maori Affairs Ministry to administer the fund.
Te Mangai Paho was allocated $500,000 from the fund last year to consult on how the fund would be spent and to develop its investment strategy and administration and oversight arrangements.
But a spokeswoman for Flavell confirmed Te Mangai Paho would not be able to administer the fund after "further examination found that there were legal barriers to this happening".
"The scope of the Maori ICT Development Fund extends beyond TMP's legislated functions," she said.
The Government has yet to confirm the new administrative arrangements, but remained committed to "minimising further delay" and intended to get the fund up and running before the end of the financial year, spokeswomen for Flavell said.
Taiuru said disagreements emerged this year over how the fund should be spent.
"There was a section of the Maori ICT sector who weren't happy with what TPK (the Maori Development Ministry) had proposed."
Some Maori businesspeople wanted all the funding allocated to existing Maori-owned ICT companies, while others wanted it to be applied more broadly, he said.
Adams had previously signalled the fund, which will be spent over six years, could help pay for digital literacy initiatives, scholarships, broadband for marae and apps that supported Maori language content.
READ MORE: Maori ICT cash not slush fund - minister
Taiuru believed the fund was now likely to be managed either by the Maori Development Ministry itself, or by government grants agency Callaghan Innovation.
But Taiuru said the issues were taking too long to sort out. "Someone is getting a lot of interest off the money sitting there when that could be better used supporting the people it should be supporting."
The ministry was seeking three people from the Maori community who would sit alongside officials on an advisory board, he said. But he believed the board was not likely to be in place until near the end of the year. "It has all been very secretive, with no updates and no firm commitments" he said.