4 May 2000
The Government is seriously considering giving a pan-Maori trust the exclusive right to purchase one of the four blocks of third generation (3G) spectrum to be auctioned in the forthcoming 2GHz auction.
Acting Communications Minister Trevor Mallard said today that the Government expects to make final decisions about the auction over the next few weeks.
Before the auction can proceed, two outstanding matters have to be resolved:
the scope and operation of the rule that will restrict the amount of spectrum that can be acquired at the auction;
how best to involve Maori in the development of the spectrum.
“The Ministry of Economic Development has received some very useful comments from interested parties on the scope and operation of the acquisition rule, and these are being carefully assessed,” Trevor Mallard said.
"Ministers have also been meeting with representatives of the New Zealand Maori Council, representatives of the claimants in the recent spectrum claim heard by the Waitangi Tribunal, and members of the Government Maori Caucus, on how to advance Maori interests.
"Our current intent is to auction off one block of 3G spectrum to those bidders who can demonstrate a commitment to involve Maori in the development of the spectrum.
"However, we are seriously considering an alternative arrangement for a pan-Maori trust to be established to manage the spectrum in association with strategic partners.
"Such an alliance could be given the exclusive right to purchase a 3G block based on the price of the other 3G blocks less a discount which, while yet to be established, could be between 5 and 10%.
"This option generated considerable interest at a Government Maori Caucus meeting today. Cabinet will be considering it over the next week or so.
"We will make more details available on this option after Cabinet has considered the issue. In the meantime, Telecommunication companies could consider how their proposals could be considered how their proposals could be adapted to meet this opportunity."
Trevor Mallard said he was pleased with the way in which discussions on the spectrum issue were proceeding.
"The Government has made it clear that we do not consider there to be a Treaty right attached to the spectrum. But we do share a vision with many Maori that there is an ability to use new technology to develop an economic base for Maori.
"The challenge for the Government, and for Maori, is how much this spectrum can be utilised in that regard.
"The shadow hanging over us all is that if we don’t move quickly we will be left behind the rest of the world in developing the resource. That could have serious adverse economic impact on the entire country," Trevor Mallard said.