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Te Reo Māori turns full circle in Parliament

Speaking Māori in Parliament has been problematical since the 1800s when Maori-speaking MPs used such colourful language that it became a challenge to translate, while another one later on cheekily used te reo to send messages to his wife on the radio.

So, it was decided fluent speakers of English had to use that language.

But in 1985 Parliament made Te Reo an official language and, while some MPs have been slow on the uptake, they are giving it a crack.

Te Ao Maōri News press gallery videographer Rituraj Sapkota shares the view from the Beehive.

“It’s a little bit disappointing that Parliament is not sitting during te wiki o te reo Māori this year,” Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson said last week when asked about his plans for Māori Language Week.

“It has always been a great platform for us as politicians to be able to use it (te reo Māori). But we will make sure we do use it this week.”

And even though the halls of Parliament were empty, the sound of te reo Māori echoed in the chambers of the political world.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern led the way, starting her post-cabinet media conference with a mihi. “Tēnā tatou i roto i ngā ahuatanga o te wā. Ko tēnei te wiki o te reo Māori. Nō reira, kia kaha te reo Māori i ngā wā katoa. Ka tupu, ka ora, ka tū, ka ia.”

Dr Ashley Bloomfield, known for incorporating kupu Māori in his speeches, added to the kaupapa the next day. “E mihi ana ki te kaupapa o te wiki anō hoki. Arā, te wiki o te reo Māori. Kia kaha te reo Māori.”

This year’s Māori Language Week saw increased participation from politicians across parties.

Many took to Facebook, Instagram and TikTok to join in the Māori Language moment at noon on Tuesday, including non-Māori MPs and ministers. Priyanka Radhakrishnan (who also took her oath as a minister for the community and voluntary sector in te reo Māori last October) shared a whakatauki she likes – “Nāku te raurau, nāu te raurau, ka ora ai te iwi.”

Health and Treaty Settlements Minister Andrew Little, no stranger to speaking up in the reo, shared his favourite, too -  “Ko te kai a te rangatira, he korero,” in a video of him standing in his office, admitting he is koretake at making TikTok videos.


Both the Prime Minister and Dr Bloomfield continued to start their speeches at the 1pm conferences in te reo Māori. And Robertson called it a “great wiki o te reo Māori” on Friday, noting that he observed a lot more people having a go.

The question that remains, however, is: Will this enthusiasm for kōrero Māori end this weekend or can some of it be carried over into the other 51 weeks that are not wiki o te reo Māori?

The Deputy Prime Minister's message was simple – “The more you speak, the better you get. And better it is for making sure we reach that big goal we’ve got of a million New Zealanders being able to have a conversation in te reo Māori by 2040,” adding that if he, brought up in the South Island with little reo Māori around, could try and risk having people wince at his pronunciation or getting it wrong, everyone should give it a go.

“Kia kaha te reo Māori, for the whole year,” he said.