The Trust grew out of Maori claims to the radio spectrum under Article 2 to the Waitangi Tribunal. Early claims by the New Zealand Maori Council and Nga Kaiwhakapumau i Te Reo in 1990/91 had sought access to FM for Maori radio development before the Waitangi Tribunal. The Tribunal unanimously agreed in its Wai 150 report that, in relation to the auction of FM radio frequencies, iwi had a ‘prior interest’ in radio spectrum.
This ‘prior interest’ was advanced again by Whatarangi Winiata, Graeme Everton, and the late Rangiaho Everton, when the Government continued with the sale of valuable spectrum later in the 1990s. One particular kind of spectrum was the cellphone fixed-point mobile band in the 2-gigahertz band (known by the modern acronym 3G (for 3rd generation)). Its sale led to a further claim by Rangiaho Everton, which succeeded at an interim, and later, a full Waitangi Tribunal hearing in 1999. The Crown noted these reports, but rejected the idea that Maori had an Article 2 interest in the radio spectrum. The Trust was born out of this Crown maneuver to outflank Tribunal recommendations in relation to its spectrum auctions.
While rejecting the reports from the Waitangi Tribunal, the Crown unilaterally decided in 1999 to create:
- a reservation of a ‘joint development right’ over one quarter of the 3G spectrum for sale, whereby Maori would have to enter into a viable contract with a commercial partner for use of that spectrum; and
- a charitable trust, known as the Māori Spectrum Trust, to represent Maori interests and receive $5m by way of a grant from the Crown.
The Crown gave Māori a limited paper right to ‘choose its development partner’ and a relatively small parcel of cash, $5m. This cash was to be used to enter into a commercial relationship with a partner to develop the spectrum right and create a new Trust structure as a mechanism for development – Te Huarahi Tika Trust (Charitable Trust) and its commercial arms. Any new joint development which planned to take up the one quarter of the 3G blocks for sale would still have to purchase the reserved spectrum. The cost would be the lowest price realised at the auction for other 3G spectrum, less a discount of 5%, with payments spread over 3 years from uplift.
The original claimants were not consulted about these moves and did not support them at the time. After a period the claimants, through Te Tauihu o Ngā Wananga, (the national association of wananga) did make an appointment, namely Piripi Walker, to the Electoral College for Te Huarahi Tika Trust.
The claimants brought their claims together under the WAI2224 claim. They are represented by:
- Nga Kaiwhakapumau i Te Reo Maori| Huirangi Waikerepuru and Piripi Walker
- New Zealand Maori Council | Whatarangi Winiata
- Rangiaho Everton Estate | Graeme Everton
In 2012, the WAI2224 claimants invited Te Huarahi Tika and other Maori groups to form a Spectrum Coalition that would support the claims discussions with the Crown. Te Huarahi Tika’s representative in this forum is the Chair, Daphne Luke.