A review of the Ministry of Economic Development’s radio spectrum management and regulation activities has recommended staffing changes with less focus on compliance work and more on medium- to long-term planning.
It also recommends the appointment of a chief technology advisor to support the unit in managing technology change.
The review, conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers, says core recommendations of a 2002 review have been delivered, including the SMART IT system which provides access to a register of radio frequencies and a back office management tool for field staff.
Feedback from spectrum users was positive, and in some cases “highly complimentary”, the review says.
However, it says there is a need for a better perspective on “emerging technologies, scenarios for spectrum utilisation and appropriate regulatory responses, firmly linked to the wider economic development agenda”.
The MED unit ensures New Zealand’s radio spectrum free from harmful interference so the resource can be used to maximum national benefit.
The review recommends more targeted compliance activity, which is expected to lead to a reduction in staff numbers estimated at five to six.
The report says this should be manageable through a “sinking lid” approach.
“We recognise that achieving the right balance between pro-active and reactive activity is easily said, but harder to achieve in practice and is also likely to change over time.”
It also recommends more medium- and long-term planning activity, which would lead to an increase in staff by three in planning, including the appointment of a “chief technology advisor” to support and act as a deputy to the manager of radio spectrum planning and policy.
The review does not recommend any reductions that would lead to a reduction in licence fees because “they would likely result in an unacceptable deterioration in the radio environment and in a lack of capability in the regulator to identify and respond to technology developments in the longer term”.
In a “key risks” section, the report notes core engineering expertise is concentrated in very long-serving staff. Some of the staff have more than 30 years’ employment in radio spectrum management.