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Michael Coote

Treaty train rocks on to radio waves

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Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the Maori water rights issue that is fouling the National minority government’s mixed ownership model (MOM) partial selloff of state-owned hydroelectric power generators worse than didymo, think again.

More serious problems are quietly emerging, despite the apparent truce that has descended since the hooey hui the government jacked up to pretend it was consulting Maori over MOM-related sweetheart deals.

Swarm intelligence-driven Maori tribal claims to enjoy privatised ownership of natural resources or rights thereto have gone viral.

The water rights spat over legalised corruption demanded by Maori tribes wanting payoffs for use of rivers running through their patch of turf has leaked across to radio spectra now that it has become apparent that prime time for applying tribal standover tactics is when the government needs to meet self-imposed deadlines.

The “digital dividend” 4G-700MHz band radio spectrum is coming up for auction to mobile phone companies by the government’s deadline of first quarter 2013.

Heartened by the water rights brouhaha, advocates of the Maori airwaves grab like Nga Kaiwhakapumau i Te Reoare are up in arms and convening a national hui to further their Waitangi Tribunal claim to own the radio spectra apparently commercially exploited by their technologically precocious neolithic ancestors prior to the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi.

These Maori supremacist militants have a precedent in that the complaisant Waitangi Tribunal ruled in 1999 that Maori had ownership rights to the 3G radio spectrum.

The then Labour government rightly rejected the proposition that Maori tribes owned radio spectra as a taonga, but blundered into the feckless stupidity of appeasement by granting Te Huarahi Tika Trust $5 million to buy a piece of 3G spectrum at 5% discount.

The road to hell is paved with good intentions, especially when precedents, no matter how small, are eagerly seized on for further exploitation by Maori tribes and their legal attack dogs such as current Treaty of Waitangi negotiations minister Christopher Finlayson has previously been and will no doubt become yet again upon eventually leaving Parliament.

A good payoff precedent, properly parleyed, is worth millions if not billions to idle Maori tribal ticket clippers.

The current National minority government has become mesmerised by the thought that Maori are owed a slice of 4G and so has gutlessly followed its Labour predecessor down the appeasement path.

We are blandly informed that the 3G radio spectrum payola to Maori interests has beneficially brought us the third mobile operator 2degrees.

So where are the Maori tribal mobile telephony technology entrepreneurs, or do we rather have a revival of the 19th century rent seeking practice of charging access fees to European tourists who wished to visit the pink and white terraces?

Passively charging a fee simply as a rental return due the local Maori tribe adds absolutely nothing of any value, let alone the slightest productivity enhancement, to our economy.

The grim object lesson of the 3G spectrum concession being leveraged up into 4G should be looked at closely by those concerned to project what will happen to MOM privatisations when Maori can pull the same kind of acquisitive stunt over water as they have over radio bands.

An extraordinary aspect of the Maori water rights looting in train under a National government in thrall to its Treaty negotiations minister is the way in which prime minister John Key could have what he now notoriously calls a “brain fade” concerning what has happened under his leadership.

Mr Key denies that Maori can own water, but concedes that they can own water rights.

He has conspicuously failed to explain to the New Zealand public, perhaps due to brain fading, that under his government and the close supervision of his Treaty negotiations minister, Treaty claim settlement laws have been bulk-voted through Parliament that have destroyed the ability of the Crown to preserve water rights in public ownership.

Mr Key might have overlooked what the Government Communications Security Bureau was doing in illegally spying on Kim Dotcom, but he cannot have the same excuse for not remembering what his own government has done to publicly-owned water rights.

For example, amidst much mystico-poetic mumbo jumbo verbiage of no discernible legal meaning, clause 23 of the preamble to the Nga Wai o Maniapoto (Waipa River) Act 2012 baldly states that the “Maniapoto [tribe] do not accept they have ever relinquished their authority or rights over the Waipa River, or its tributaries.”

There you have it, enacted in Parliament under Messrs Key and Finlayson, who are apparently too brain faded to explain what these words mean to the general public or potential investors in Mighty River Power.

This from the National Party, which espouses the core value that there should be “equal citizenship and equal opportunity”.