Maori ICT cash not slush fund - minister

TOM PULLAR-STRECKER
Last updated 08:35 22/02/2013

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Communications Minister Amy Adams denies a $30 million ''ICT development fund'' offered to Maori in place of a slice of New Zealand's ''digital dividend'' spectrum is a slush fund.

The Government yesterday brushed off a claim by Maori for a share of the spectrum, which is suitable for 4G mobile networks and is due to be auctioned by October after almost a year of delays.

Adams said the fund would be ''recognition that the Government has a role to protect Maori language and culture as treaty partners''.

The fund would also help the Government achieve its existing policy objectives of helping ''lift Maori participation and achievement''.

''I can see opportunities for initiatives improving digital literacy, potential scholarships to improve Maori ICT training, perhaps connectivity for marae, the development of 'apps' that supported Maori language content, innovation incubators...''.

She and Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples would make recommendations on who should hold the purse strings.

Adams said she expected Maori claimants to the spectrum would be disappointed.

They met yesterday night and were expected to say soon whether they intended to revive a Waitangi Tribunal claim for the spectrum which would have the potential to further delay the spectrum sale.

''My understanding was always that they felt spectrum was a 'taonga' and there was a treaty right to the spectrum,'' Adams said.

''But I think we have been clear with them that is not a view we share.

Telecom chief executive Simon Moutter said in Wellington last week that the low-frequency spectrum would be essential for building 4G mobile networks outside of densely-populated urban centres.

Former Broadcasting Minister Jonathan Coleman said in 2011 that making the digital dividend spectrum available for 4G networks would generate economic benefits worth between $1.1 billion and $2.4b over 20 years.   

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