Most media are tuned into the border reopening; only some have picked up on ‘partnership’ being pushed (with $32m) into IT

At least one speech writer and two Beehive press officers – as well as all the health experts who provided advice and the ministers who digested it – were involved in the announcement that the border is being reopened.

Point of Order expects this will be widely reported by mainstream media.

Another press statement from the Beehive – in contrast – doesn’t seem to have attracted too many headlines, although Business Desk reports it involves a deal that will give an ongoing allocation of 20% of future national commercial radio spectrum allocations at no cost to a Māori spectrum entity.

Seeding funding of $32 million will be given to the new entity, too, over five years.

But first (hurrah!), the opening of the border.

The decision means the end of managed isolation and quarantine.

“Having MIQ for every traveller was a temporary setting for when none of us had protection. New Zealanders need to reconnect with one another. Families and friends need to reunite. Our businesses need skills to grow. Exporters need to travel to make new connections,” Chris Hipkins said

 While travellers will no longer need to stay in MIQ, other border measures will be maintained to reduce the spread of the virus.

 The border will reopen to vaccinated Kiwis and other current eligible travellers from Australia at 11.59pm on 27 February and to the same groups from the rest of the world two weeks later on 13 March.

Mind you, as David Farrar reminds us on Kiwiblog,

… they have done this twice before, and then reneged, so these should be treated more as aspirational targets than certainties.

Two ministers are named on the press release, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins and Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi.

We can thank high vaccination rates for their decision

“This is a very carefully developed plan that replaces MIQ for the vast majority of travellers while ensuring we maintain ongoing measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in our community from recent arrivals,” Chris Hipkins said.

“With 94 percent of our population fully vaccinated, and 92 percent of those over 18 now eligible for a booster by the end of February it’s time to shift gears in our COVID-19 response to focus on reconnection and recovery.

“By reducing the gap to get boosted to three months we’re ensuring we reach our highest possible boosted rates before fully reopening.”

By the time the government starts to reopen the border, we’ll be one of the most vaccinated and most boosted countries in the world and the COVID-19 Protection Framework will be well established in helping to manage COVID outbreaks, Hipkins said.

“Our plan has built in protections to help manage risks such as future variants. A phased approach to reopening reduces the risk of a surge of cases, while prioritising the return of New Zealanders and much needed entry of skilled workers.”

The PM – of course – was given a platform for grandstanding on the decision.

Her speech was headed Reconnecting New Zealand to the World.

She recalled the establishment of our managed isolation and quarantine system on the 10th of April almost two years ago and she strongly hinted she recognised how politically contentious the system had become:

It’s easy to hear the word MIQ and immediately associate it with heartache. There is no question, that for New Zealand, it has been one of the hardest parts of the pandemic. But the reason that it is right up there as one of the toughest things we have experienced, is in part because large-scale loss of life is not.

The anguish of MIQ has been real, and heart breaking. But the choice to use it, undeniably saved lives.

Point of Order is confident the border news will be well and truly covered by the mainstream media.

Political news which the media have largely ignored regards something announced as the signing of “a historic agreement recognising Māori interests in the radio spectrum”.

Digital Economy and Communications Minister David Clark invoked the fast-expanding concept of “partnership” to explain what is happening:

The agreement, designed in partnership with the Māori Spectrum Working Group, is an opportunity to build Māori capability in spectrum-related industries and see Māori participating more prominently in this growing sector.

He also said:

“It recognises the critical role Māori are able to bring to the telecommunications sector.”  

Are they playing a critical role now?  If so, what’s the need for commitments to establish a permanent Māori Spectrum entity?

More important, what about the details?

The press statement provides some but says further information will be made available later this year.

Thus we are left with political puffery from the Minister:

“Supported by funding and long-term access to spectrum, the Māori Spectrum entity will work with the government on spectrum policy decisions whilst advocating for Māori interests in radio spectrum. This includes digital enterprise and jobs, healthcare, rural economy and connectivity, education, broadcasting, and revitalisation of te reo Māori,” Clark said.

“Supported by funding” strongly suggests the government will be coughing up millions of dollars.

Clark then said the details of the agreement signed yestereay

“… include an ongoing allocation of national spectrum and a role for Māori in spectrum policy making.”

In other words, the government has succumbed to pressure from a Maori group for the Crown to give it money and other resources and give Maori a place in the policy-making structure.

This was affirmed by Māori Spectrum Working Group acting convenor Piripi Walker, who said this was an agreement over longstanding claims Māori had had about the radio spectrum and frequencies.

“Waitangi Tribunal has found in favour of these claims in the past, but the discussions and negotiations have been difficult and the Crown has not accepted the Waitangi Tribunal central finding. However, in the last three years the Crown returned to the table with a willingness to reach and enduring agreement over frequencies and the radio spectrum, and today is the fruit of those negotiations,” Walker said.

Walker said it would benefit all of the country.

“It will give access to training, skills, jobs and innovation in the sector. It will also mark a start of a new era in Māori participating in telecommunications.”

Māori Development Minister Willie Jackson similarly said the announcement was “a fantastic opportunity not just for Māori but the whole of Aotearoa”.

He then said:

“This is a great stepping-stone for Māori and the Crown to reach an enduring agreement which recognises Māori interests in this kaupapa.”

What he means when he talks about the recognition of Maori interests “in this kaupapa” is unclear to us and (we suspect) will be unclear to the great majority of Kiwis.

He went on:

“I am delighted we are moving forward on this, and with an inclusive approach, to create greater opportunity for all New Zealanders.” 

The opportunity that has been created for all New Zealanders by a decision to carve up the spectrum and allocate a chunk of it on a race basis is unclear.

For the record, the Māori Spectrum Working Group was established by Māori in 2019 to lead this work with the government.

In 2020 a short-term allocation of spectrum for 5G services was made to Māori, which acted as a stepping-stone to reach the enduring agreement announced yesterday.

More information about the process to develop this agreement, and the full agreement details, will be available on MBIE’s website “in due course”

 Point of Order this afternoon emailed some questions to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.  We await responses.

Meanwhile we note that the announcement was covered in reports by RNZ (here) and Businessdesk (here),

RNZ didn’t mention money or the size of the Maori share of the spectrum allocation.   

Business Desk’s Tech Editor, Henry Burrell, was on the job, however.

He reported that under the deal, signed in Parliament on Wednesday, an ongoing allocation of 20% of future national commercial spectrum allocations will be given at no cost to a Māori spectrum entity.

Seeding funding of $32 million will also be given to the new entity over five years.

Point of Order acknowledges we have no idea of the extent of Maori involvement in telecommunications or the radio spectrum.

But we do recall reading that IT technologies can be challenging for some Maori for different reasons than they are for non-Maori:

The annual NetHui was held in Auckland in 2015 to enable Māori to discuss and share their ideas about whether tikanga Māori crosses over to the internet.

One Lincoln university philosopher says it does.  Over 3 billion people are connected to the internet worldwide, but where does Māori fit into that?

 Indigenous Digital Philosopher, Karaitiana Taiuru says, “We’re kanohi ki te kanohi, you know their mauri, you can touch something and get the mauri and the internet, it’s nothing, it’s te kore and it’s hard to try and quantify that.  But if you use the internet for the right purposes then it will have mauri.”

Research from Lincoln University at that time reportedly said Māori use the internet to communicate on social media and to check the news, but some still have concerns.

Te Mihinga Komene says, “We are very active on the web, but there are many of us that are scared about new technology, 30 years have passed, let’s move forward eh?”

 Te Tumatakuru O’Connell says, “The new technology is brilliant, to some it’s intimidating.  But I believe we should embrace it.”

Here’s hoping the $32 million helps make things less intimidating.

Latest from the Beehive

Border to reopen in stages from 27 February

The New Zealand border will reopen to vaccinated Kiwis and other current eligible travellers from Australia at 11.59pm on 27 February and to the same groups from the rest of the world only two weeks later on 13 March.


Reconnecting New Zealand to the World

Today I want to talk about the next set of changes that will take us a long way on that journey back to a new normal, and that is our reconnection with the world.

Māori recognised as telecommunication sector leaders

An historic agreement recognising Māori interests in radio spectrum has been signed at Parliament today.

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