Spectrum isn't an ancient treasure

OK, as colonialists, maybe Europeans didn't treat the indigenous natives as well as we should have — and that applies to both sides of the Tasman.

OK, as colonialists, maybe Europeans didn't treat the indigenous natives as well as we should have — and that applies to both sides of the Tasman.

In New Zealand, the colonialists signed the Treaty of Waitangi with the Maori natives more than 160 years ago. This created a system to give Maori redress where it is deemed land was unfairly taken or stolen. It also meant, via Article Three, the natives have the same rights as the colonists.

There have been some legitimate claims, with others still working their way through the Waitangi Tribunal, giving some huge settlements to the various tribes. Two amounted to a couple of hundreds of millions of dollars apiece, with Ngai Tahu in the South Island in particular investing the money wisely, creating significant business interests.

However, New Zealand must be wary of spurious claims, such as one being raised by the Maori Council, a body stemming from a variety of local Maori committees, seeking all 4G spectrum! The council says the Waitangi Tribunal has ruled spectrum is a taonga, or treasure, making it Maori property under Article Two of the Treaty of Waitangi.

Fortunately, the New Zealand Government is not going along with such nonsense, pointing to political precedent.

Furthermore, as ICT Minister Steven Joyce says: "Because spectrum was not in use at the time that the treaty was signed and was not known at the time that the treaty was signed, it's difficult to argue it was taonga."

Now, the New Zealand Government accepts that the Maori language is a cultural treasure and I expect some money will be found for that from any proceeds from any 4G sale. When the 3G licences were sold off, there was a pay-off given to Maori interests and they had the right to buy some of the spectrum at a discount. A repeat can be expected from precedent and because a race-based Maori Party is part of our right-leaning coalition government. That seems acceptable.

However, if such claims from the Maori Council create hold ups in developing 4G services, many will suffer. Business needs the benefits of 4G to help it and the country compete and create wealth.

I can only hope your own aborigines don't look over at this side of the Tasman and gain inspiration from our Maori Council. I don't recall wireless internet and mobile phones being part of the "Dreamtime" either.

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