Treaty claimant on radio spectrum speaks out

'Maori aren't any longer after beads and blankets, we really are after the chunky stuff,' says Graeme Everton

A claimant to the Waitangi Tribunal claim for radio spectrum says that Te Huarahi Tika Trust does not speak for him and his co-claimants in discussions with the Crown.

Graeme Everton, who’s mother Rangiaho Everton lodged the original spectrum claim in 1999, says that while the Trust is an advisor to the claimants, it does not represent them.

The claimants of what is now referred to as Wai 2224 , are Everton, The New Zealand Maori Council and Nga Kaiwhakapumau I te Reo Inc. They are involved in discussions with the Crown, which in the last parliamentary term involved the Minister of Maori Affairs Pita Sharples and then ICT Minister Steven Joyce.

“Every Maori, every Maori organisation that has an interest in resource-based allocations has an interest in the spectrum claim but ultimately any benefits will come back to Maori,” Everton says.

Everton says the commercial arm of Te Huarahi Tika Trust, Hautaki Trust, is “very focused on ensuring 2degrees continues to grow, even though it has a minority stake in the business.”

He also points out members of the Hautaki Trust, such as director Antony Royal, are 2degrees board members.

The Wai 2224 claimants are seeking a sizeable portion of the 700MHz spectrum (valuable because it will enable a 4G rollout), and an agreement with the Crown that would ensure a similar allocation every time spectrum rights become available.

“We’re sick of having to go back to the Crown and trying to re-litigate over and over again the same issue, and get the same outcomes. So what we have been interested in, particularly over the last couple of years, particularly in regards to the 700MHz spectrum is to work through a process that both the Crown and Maori can agree on for the future process of allocation.”

Everton says the claimants don’t want to “pitch their tent” with one particular telco just yet. Once the spectrum allocation is agreed to, the claimants intend to negotiate with the operator that provides them with the most significant opportunity to advance Maori. He says that if the claimants have a guarantee of allocation in the future, this will strengthen their position.

Everton says Maori are looking for a long-term partnership with a telco. This could take the form of a high-ranking management position that is part of the company’s executive team. This executive would look at long term opportunities for Maori development – “from management through to build-out assistance, and business opportunity development”.

“That’s the compelling opportunity,” says Everton “Maori aren’t any longer after beads and blankets; we really are after the chunky stuff.”

Everton points out that Maori are interested in creating long term benefits for New Zealand and will keep resources in local hands. “We’re not the scary partners that we may have been portrayed as.”

He says that with a “meagre portion” of the 3G spectrum, Maori were instrumental in bringing a third mobile operator to New Zealand.

When asked about whether Ng Pu Waea – the working group set up to oversee Maori interests in the Rural Broadband Initiative – was the vehicle to express Maori views in telecommunications, Everton said the group had been “hand picked by the Crown out of people with certain interests in the sector.”

Everton wants to see wider consultation with Maori over what opportunities there are from spectrum allocation. He also wants negotiations with the Crown concluded by April so that Maori can begin discussions with all the telcos.

Computerworld pointed out that the confidence and supply agreement signed by National and The Maori Party on the weekend includes an undertaking that discussions over radio spectrum “will be brought to a conclusion by not later than May 2012.”

“Awesome,” says Everton.

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