Maori to New Zealand: We Own the Radio Waves

Claim by indigenous people might delay rollout of 4G
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 17, 2013 6:12 PM CDT
Maori to New Zealand: We Own the Radio Waves
A traditional Maori welcome ceremony is performed in Auckland, New Zealand.   (AP Photo/NZPA, David Rowland)

New Zealand hopes to roll out 4G technology across the nation this fall, but an unusual legal dispute is threatening to force a long delay: The indigenous Maori tribes have claimed ownership of New Zealand's radio waves, reports the Wall Street Journal. If the claim is true, that means the government has no authority to auction off spectrum necessary for the upgrade.

The Maori base their case on a treaty in which the government gave them the rights to "taonga"—loosely defined as treasure. That treaty, however, was signed in 1840, long before anyone even thought of something called a radio. "The government doesn't accept that radio spectrum is a taonga," says a government official. But the Journal quotes a legal expert on the treaty who says 4G might have to wait another year because of the fight. (Read more Maori stories.)

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