Māori broadcaster to launch Waitangi Tribunal action over Wellington 'crisis'

Rereatea

All 21 Iwi radio stations throughout Aotearoa have unanimously given their support to the pioneer Māori radio station Te Upoko o Te Ika, in an effort to keep the station operating. 

The oldest Māori radio station is launching legal action in the Waitangi Tribunal, after it was almost forced to close.

The station and Nga Kaiwhakapūmau i Te Reo (the Wellington Māori Language Board) said Government policies around the allocation of radio spectrum have forced division among Māori and needlessly limit Māori access to radio.

Issues started in June, when station Te Ūpoko o te Ika was left without funding and risked losing its frequency because of a change in Government policy.

Te Ūpoko o Te Ika Radio has been operating for 33 years.
ANDREW GORRIE/STUFF

Te Ūpoko o Te Ika Radio has been operating for 33 years.

Wellington's Te Ūpoko o te Ika, the first Māori radio station to go to air, had its funding cut for about two months. Māori broadcasting agency Te Māngai Pāho was refusing to fund the station after local iwi were slow to sign off its continued use of the AM spectrum.

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In Wellington, two iwi were involved with approving Māori radio stations: Te Ātiawa and Ngāti Toa. In other areas, such as Auckland, the ministry responsible for allocating Māori radio frequencies dealt directly with the stations themselves.

Te Ūpoko was a pan-tribal station. It was understood that Ngāti Toa and Te Ātiawa were looking to merge the private station with their own, Atiawa Toa FM.

For more than two months, the two Wellington iwi declined to approve Te Ūpoko's use of the airwaves.

Piripi Walker, right, and Tama Te Huki in the studio of the Wellington Maori language radio station, Te Ūpoko o Te Ika, ...
SUPPLIED

Piripi Walker, right, and Tama Te Huki in the studio of the Wellington Maori language radio station, Te Ūpoko o Te Ika, on the day that it started broadcasting in 1987.

At a hui this week, the two iwi and Te Māngai Pāho agreed to keep Te Ūpoko running, for at least a year. The station would receive about $480,000 of Government funding to keep it broadcasting.

Te Ūpoko deputy chairman Piripi Walker said concerns over the station's future only arose because of poor Government policy. He also supported iwi starting their own stations.

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He said the Crown was inconsistent in its dealings with iwi and radio stations, as it dealt directly with Radio Waatea in Auckland but would only grant spectrum via iwi in Wellington.

By only making available a small amount of spectrum for Māori, he said the Government was breaching Te Tiriti.

"We have always fully supported the aspirations of all iwi for broadcasting their reo," he said in a statement.

Māori Development Minster Nanaia Mahuta welcomed news that Te Ūpoko had been granted a year's reprieve, saying "common sense has prevailed".

She said it was a "crisis" that the station faced closure.

Minister Nanaia Mahuta is responsibile for Te Puni Kōkiri, the ministry that allocates radio spectrum to iwi.
DOMINICO ZAPATA/STUFF

Minister Nanaia Mahuta is responsibile for Te Puni Kōkiri, the ministry that allocates radio spectrum to iwi.

Issues causing the station, and Nga Kaiwhakapūmau, to head to the Tribunal were the result of a previous Government's actions, she said.

"The decision to transfer the licence was made in May 2017 prior to us becoming Government and that the option to go to the tribunal was a matter for Nga Kaiwhakapūmau i Te Reo to consider – the avenue is and always has been open to them."

A statement from Nga Kaiwhakapūmau said they wanted a full review of Māori broadcasting policy.

"This dispute over Te Ūpoko's use of the license is a predictable result of the Crown's legislation, policies and practices.

"The Crown has seriously destabilised a very successful initiative to promote te tino rangatiratanga o te reo Maori," it said.

The group has had success in the Tribunal before. In 1984, it successfully argued to have te reo become an official language of New Zealand.

Then, in 1987, its appeal to the Privy Council resulted in changes to the Broadcasting Act and the establishment of Te Māngai Pāho. It also founded Te Ūpoko.


 - The Dominion Post

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