Oldest Māori radio station Te Upoko O Te Ika under closure threat amid dispute

New Zealand's oldest Māori radio station's under threat of closure.

Wellington's Te Upoko O Te Ika has been on air for 31 years, but a dispute over its frequency could see it disappear from the airwaves for good.

The radio station holds a special place in New Zealand broadcasting. 

"Te Upoko was all these things - it was language, it was culture, it was music, it was community,"  Te Atawhai Tibble, a Te Upoko O Te Ika former employee said. 

Te Upoko O Te Ika is a trailblazer.  It was the first Māori language radio station, with a frequency licence since 1987. 

But in a recent treaty deal, two Wellington tribes, Ngāti Toa Rangatira and Te Āti Awa got the frequency, and that has created tension.

"It was predicted a long time ago it would lead to major de-stablilisation and possibly the end of the radio station. So this has come to pass regrettably," Piripi Walker of Te Upoko O Te Ika said.

An Iwi spokesman couldn't be reached for comment today. But 1 NEWS understands what's fuelling the problem is that Te Māngai Paho, the government agency in charge of funding this sector, won't release half a million dollars to Te Upoko O Te Ika until the licence has been confirmed. 

Industry bosses meeting today said they were angry at the lack of leadership shown by Te Māngai Paho on the issue.

Iwi Radio Network chairman Rawiri Waru said, "The confidence has gone and we don't know what they are doing to get that back."

Te Upoko O Te Ika has nourished some of the most well-known Māori names in the industry and was a site for Māori activism. 

"Those people are responsible singlehandedly for what we now call Māori broadcasting. And that was important because they took the crown on. And it all happened in the tea room of Te Upoko," Te Atawhai Tibble said.

If no funding is sorted by October, the proud radio voice could go silent. 

The Wellington station has been on air for 31 years, but a frequency dispute could see it disappear for good. Source: 1 NEWS