The Government’s pending announcement on the Rural Broadband Initiative (RBI) will be a failure for Maori if the Ministry of Economic Development’s (MED) approach to consultation with Maori on both the development of the RBI and the subsequent decision on the successful bidder is anything to go by” say’s Graeme Everton, long-time advocate for Maori participation in the Information and Telecommunications Technology (ICT) sector.
Graeme along with other advocates (Broadband Advocates for M?ori (BAM)) recently set up a website called Ipurangi Maori to highlight the upcoming decision on the RBI. The intent of the site was to provide a forum to raise awareness of the RBI and to provide feedback on the issues important to Maori.
MED was asked what was being done to ensure Maori participation in the RBI process but it soon became clear to Mr Everton that in fact apart from the private bid by Torotoro Waea, Maori weren’t being involved in any meaningful way, with little or no effective consultation being carried out during the development of the RBI or the subsequent tender process.
A call for the Government to be more open and inclusive of Maori in the RBI process was rejected by Chris Bishop, lead project manager for MED on the RBI. Efforts to raise concerns with Mr Bishop were ignored and in fact MED proved to be extremely unhelpful, to the extent that they blocked efforts to talk directly to bidders.
“What we had hoped to do was to get the three bidders perspectives on what opportunities they saw for Maori in the RBI and what they were prepared to do to ensure Maori were actively involved and benefited from the initiative but MED refused to allows us to talk to them and warned the bidders against talking to us” said Mr Everton.
A statement posted to the Ipurangi Maori website from Mr Bishop indicated that the Government did not see value in consulting with Maori prior to a decision being made on the winner of the tender but once a decision had been made they were prepared to facilitate discussion with the successful party.
The group is calling upon the Government to reject the recommendation from MED on its preferred bidder and to refer it back to them with a clear message that they must act in good faith and consult with Maori as a Treaty Partner and not just another end user.
New Zealand can’t afford to get this wrong but by not guaranteeing Maori participation it may just do so” says Mr Everton.
The group feels so strongly about the issue that they are looking at an option of a Waitangi Tribunal Claim. “At minimum we are considering taking it to the United Nations through the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) as a breach of Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples” says Mr Everton. If we can’t get them to listen here maybe they will over there.