Waatea News Update

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Location: Auckland, New Zealand

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Mallard ducks regulation to favour mobile duopoly

A leading telecommunications analyst says the decision by Economic Development Minister Trevor Mallard to let Telecom and Vodafone write their own rules for mobile termination rates could spell doom for a competing Maori-backed mobile phone network.

New Zealand Communications has started building a network which will use spectrum reserved for Maori under a treaty settlement.

Paul Budde says the company, which will have 20 percent Maori shareholding, was banking on a stable regulatory environment.

But he says Mr Mallard's decision this week to over-ride the Commerce Commission and reinforce the existing duopoly could cause a rethink.

“What the minister is doing is say ‘ignore the Commerce Commission, and if you’ve got any problems, then actually see me and I will overrule the Commerce Commission.’ I mean once you start on that track it’s a very very dangerous track and you are going to undermine the credibility of the government policies, the credibility of the regulator, and that is bad bad bad news,” Mr Budde says.

He says with the real cost of mobile calls to network operators dropping below one cent, Trevor Mallard is guaranteeing Telecom and Vodafone another five years of profits from gouging their customers.

STILL GAP IN MAORI MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES

A Maori social policy expert says the Mental Health Commission's review of the past 10 years shows Maori concerns over access to mental health services still need to be addressed.

Fiona Te Momo from Massey University's school of social and cultural studies says while the Haererenga mo te Whakaoranga report details the way mental health services have become more responsive to patient needs, it also identifies shortfalls in the system.

Dr Te Momo says Maori still have disproportionate rates of mental ill health.

“The service and type of delivery needs to be looked at. What are those issues in terms of our Maori clients? What’s happening with the service provided to them? What type of mental health are they incurring, and is this the subject of other things like drugs, alcohol, and everything else that’s happening within their environment?” Dr Te Momo says.

Maori community organsiations need to become more involved in delivery of mental health services.

MUTTONBIRDS READY TO FLY INTO POT

Muttonbirders are getting ready for the busiest part of their short season.

The few hundred Rakiura Maori with birding rights are on the 15 islands in the far south where the titi or sooty shearwaters nest.

Birder Marty Te Au says the birds are in good condition, but catches have so far been low.

Mr Te Au says the rough weather expected at the end of the week is likely to bring ideal harvesting conditions.

“This is the main part of it. The first of April is what they call a nowi, where you go down there and drag the birds out of the hole, but you don’t get that many. It’s this time of the year that you start catching the birds when they come out of the holes on their own free will, ready to fly,” Mr Te Au says.

TRIBUNAL QUESTIONS SLOW DELIVERY OF TAMAKI DOCUMENTS

The Waitangi Tribunal has delayed releasing its report on the 80 million dollar plus settlement of Ngati Whatua's claims to central Auckland until it is sure the Crown has disclosed all the relevant documents.

Acting chairperson Carrie Wainwright issued a memorandum yesterday with new questions for the Office of Treaty Settlements, and demanded answers by noon Friday.

In March a three-member tribunal panel heard from several Auckland and Hauraki iwi that their claims to Tamaki Makaurau had been pushed aside in the rush to settle with the Orakei subtribe of Ngati Whatua.

Judge Carrie Wainwright promised a quick report, but two weeks ago the tribunal received more documents which she says were absolutely central to the issues before the inquiry.

She wants to know why the Office of Treaty Settlements didn't reveal them to the hearing, and whether any other surprises can be expected.

She has given the Crown until Friday to give an answer, and produce any other papers.

Judge Wainwright says she may then call for more submissions, or even reconvene the hearing and put the witnesses back in the stand.

MAORI SETTLEMENT UNDER THREAT FROM MALLARD MAULING

Australasian telecommunications analyst Paul Budde says the Government's latest move in the mobile phone market undermines the Maori radio spectrum settlement.

Economic Development Minister Trevor Mallard has rejected Commerce Commission advice to regulate the amount phone companies charge to switch calls between fixed and mobile networks, and instead will allow Telecom and Vodafone to gradually reduce fees over the next five years.

Mr Budde says that spells disaster for Maori-backed New Zealand Communications, which is building a mobile network using frequencies granted to Maori to settle the radio spectrum claim.

He says fair competition needs strong regulation.

If you then start undermining, on one side you have the Maori spectrum sort of issue, and on the other side the only thing what you are doing is actually strengthening the duopoly between the major players, I mean the right hand is doing something totally different to what the left hand is doing,” Mr Budde says.

He says while Telecom and Vodafone are laughing all the way to the bank, New Zealand's telecommunications policies are making it the laughing stock of the developed world.

MAY MUSIC MONTH MISSES MAORI MEDIUM MUSICIANS

Maori language musicians are expecting little benefit from New Zealand Music Month.

Singer Moana Maniapoto says while the focus on kiwi sounds may help some mainstream musicians, those performing predominantly in Maori struggle to get airplay.

She says most Maori musicians have learned to just get on with their business.

“New Zealand Music Month might well work for some bands and get them an additional profile but I think the reality for a lot is that we’re doing the hard slog, so we’ve just finished a performance in Wanaka, we’re preparing to go off to Russia and we’re recording our fourth album at the moment. That’s all very much under the radar,” Maniapoto says.

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