TUANZ fails to gain grant from InternetNZ

Chairman and CEO quash rumours that organisation considering winding up

An unsuccessful application from the Telecommunications Users’ Association (TUANZ) to InternetNZ for a five-figure financial grant may have contributed to the resurrection of a periodic rumour that TUANZ is in serious financial trouble and considering winding up.

TUANZ chairman Pat O’Connell and CEO Paul Brislen both firmly quash that rumour.

Reports of an impending TUANZ wind-up have been circulating periodically for at least the past two years, says O’Connell, but they definitely have no foundation. A meeting last week where the winding up was said to be about to be considered is “just our regular board meeting” he said two days before.

Following the meeting O'Connell told Computerworld "It was a pretty regular board meeting; we just worked on the things we normally do."

Brislen says application was made for a grant of $75,000 from InternetNZ funds, to help finance a specific project – a research unit that would supply answers to public and media inquiries: “things like, ‘how many mobile phones are in use in New Zealand?’” It was turned down, as far as he is aware, primarily because it was thought to smack too much of a commercial activity. InternetNZ’s grants scheme does not fund such endeavours. He also understood the scheme might compete with something similar that InternetNZ is considering, he says.

The relevant item in the council meeting minutes for December 9, however, cites twice that sum. It reads: “That the grants request from TUANZ for $150,000 funding to establish research capability within TUANZ be declined.”

Asked about the difference, InternetNZ president Frank March says, by email from Bangkok: “The Council minute may be interpreted to suggest that the actual request was couched as a range of options.

“I am not in a position to provide further details about the application,” he says. “InternetNZ conducts its own business as transparently as possible, however, we do need to respect the confidence of others.”

Following rejection of its application, TUANZ intends to fund the research unit from its own resources, Brislen says. He regards the issue as dead, but O’Connell said he would not rule out a renewed application.

Asked about the often suggested expedient of TUANZ and InternetNZ or another ICT lobby organisation combining forces to save money, Brislen says a TUANZ-INZ merger was ruled out “before my time”. Mergers with other industry organisations have also been floated in the past, he says; “but we've all got a slightly different mandate and membership base and we've all got a reason for existing.”

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