Iwi in negotiations over radio claim

TOM PULLAR-STRECKER
Last updated 11:09 17/01/2013

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Iwi are understood to be negotiating with the Government to get a slice of hundreds of millions of dollars-worth of radio spectrum after they put a plan to seek an urgent hearing from the Waitangi Tribunal on ice.

Communications Minister Amy Adams would not confirm talks were taking place but said this morning that the Government had engaged with a number of parties, including Maori spectrum claimants, over the past few years.

Proposals regarding the spectrum are currently before Cabinet and announcements will be made in due course, she said.

Victoria University emeritus professor Whatarangi Winiata said in early November that Maori claimants planned to reactivate a 2009 Waitangi Tribunal for a portion of the country's ''digital dividend'' spectrum.

He expected then that they were likely to lodge an application for an urgent hearing with the tribunal within the following two or three weeks.

The approach had been agreed at a hui at Ngatokowaru Marae that was chaired by Professor Winiata and included attendees from the telecommunications, media, education and investment sectors.

However, a Justice Ministry spokesman said no application for an urgent hearing had been lodged with the tribunal.

Successive governments have rejected the suggestion radio spectrum is ''taonga'' but the Labour government in 2000 set a precedent by giving iwi cash and the right to purchase some 3G spectrum at a discount.

Piripi Walker, treasurer of the Maori language commission Nga Kaiwhakapumau, which is one of the claimants for the 700MHz digital dividend spectrum, said delicate discussions were taking place following the hui.

The Government had originally hoped to allocate licences for the radio spectrum by the end of last year. However, it has yet to announce the spectrum allocation rules.

The spectrum will be used by telcos to support 4G mobile networks.V

odafone New Zealand chief executive Russell Stanners has said the deployment of 4G could be delayed if the spectrum isn't allocated by April.

The spectrum would be worth at least several hundred million dollars, if it sold for the per capita going rate established by similar auctions overseas.  

Contact Tom Pullar-Strecker
Technology reporter
Email: tom.pullar-strecker@dompost.co.nz
Twitter: @PullarStrecker

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- The Dominion Post

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