Horomia won't carry can for Econet

New Zealand's Minister of Maori Affairs, Parekura Horomia, disclaims responsibility for Econet Wireless International's failure to set up a mobile network in New Zealand, despite having met with the company earlier this year.

Horomia is the minister responsible for the Crown's relationship with the Maori Spectrum Trust, Te Huarahi Tika, which gave Econet NZ$4 million (US$2.9 million) for a 30 percent stake in the local company.

Despite the Trust not fulfilling its obligations under its own deed, as reported in Computerworld last month, Horomia says he has "no responsibility for Econet Wireless" and appears unconcerned by Econet's troubles overseas as well as its apparent lack of progress in New Zealand.

The Minister refused to answer questions from Computerworld on why the Trust had failed to make its annual reports available or whether it had held annual public meetings as it is required to. He earlier claimed all relevant documents were available on the Trust's website; however, the website hasn't been updated since October 2002 and contains only the company's first annual report from 2001.

Horomia also says the Trust has not required Econet Wireless to fulfill its obligation to provide sports and academic scholarships or free internet services to schools.

"My understanding is that Econet Wireless has offered the funds to Hautaki Trust and that Hautaki Trust would prefer to take advantage of these scholarships once their network is up and running," he said in a statement to Computerworld. Hautaki is the name of the Trust's commercial arm.

Horomia also says he and Communications Minister David Cunliffe met with Econet Wireless and the Trust this year, but gave scant detail about what was discussed.

"David Cunliffe and myself attended a meeting where representatives from Econet Wireless and Te Huarahi Tika Trust were present in mid-February of this year, in Wellington. During the meeting there was discussion on progress towards utilizing the spectrum," he says.

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