In New Zealand, Charging For Airspace


The Maori, New Zealand’s native people, triggered an uproar last week when they said they may start charging fees for the use of airspace above Lake Taupo, a popular tourist destination on the North Island. The fees would apply not only to floatplane landings, but overflights … bungee jumping … and bridges across the rivers that flow into the lake. In 1992, the Maori and the government signed a “deed of settlement” giving ownership of Lake Taupo and its waters to the tribe. That deed gives the tribe half of all fishing license money and revenue from ramp, marina and mooring charges, which generates about $1 million (NZ) for the Maori. The airspace grab prompted political finger-pointing over who was to blame for the “sloppy” deed, as well as concern that it would anger non-Maori New Zealanders and worsen race relations. Another group of Maori had suggested last month that their land rights extend all the way to outer space, and they might begin charging fees to airliners and satellites that traverse it.