Maori ICT fund not contingent on Telecom approval

TOM PULLAR-STRECKER
Last updated 08:50 26/02/2014

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A $30 million "information and communication technology fund" for Maori is likely to be created whether or not regulators approve the sale of the last digital dividend spectrum block to Telecom next month, Communications Minister Amy Adams says.

The Government proposed the ICT fund last year in lieu of offering Maori a share of the radio spectrum freed-up by the closure of analogue television.

Adams said the Cabinet would make a final decision once the digital dividend spectrum auction had been completed.

She and Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples had working "in the background" to determine how the fund might work, she said.

"I'm careful not to have my own wish list. I don't think it is for me to tell the Maori community what would be of most use to them."

But options included supporting Maori ICT businesses, funding scholarships and providing an industry training course aimed at Maori, she said. "Thirty million dollars can both be a really effective amount of money to do some quite cool things, or it can be a small amount of money if you try and spread it very thinly.

"My own view is I would much rather see it targeted in a limited number of a few directions."

Telecom, Vodafone and 2degrees agreed last year to pay the minimum reserve price of $176m for eight of the nine available spectrum blocks, but the Commerce Commission doesn't expect to decide before March 14 whether to approve the sale of the final block to Telecom for a bumper $84m.

The fund was not contingent on the Crown receiving the extra cash and was likely to go ahead either way, Adams said.

Telecom, Vodafone and 2degrees will be invited to bid again to get the particular frequencies they want within the spectrum band, but Adams said that process could not get underway until the commission had made its decision on Telecom's bid.

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- Fairfax Media

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