Source / File
Kaiako say an increase in pay for teachers at kōhanga reo has been a long time coming, but there is still plenty to be done.
Kaiako will receive a 35 percent pay rise, as part of efforts to close significant pay disparities.
The average pay for a teacher fluent in Te Reo Māori will rise from $44,000 a year to a starting pay of close to $60,000.
Kaikao have long been paid well below the equivalent of those who work in early learning centres and kindergartens.
Kōhanga Reo national trust co-chair Raniera Procter said the announcement is a huge win, but a bittersweet one.
"The feeling of the kōhanga reo whānau is it's about time.
"Our kōhanga reo have been open for 40 years now, we have fought hard for recognition of the mahi of our kaimahi and the role that they play."
The associate education minister, Kelvin Davis, said kaiako now have pay parity, and for the first time, a pay scale will lay the path for a genuine career in kōhanga reo.
An entry-level kaikao will now earn close to $60,000, but they can move through the bands to as high as $99,000, with added qualifications.
He said that, so far, a third of kōhanga have joined the new scale, but he expects many more to jump on.
"I think as soon as they... realise people will go, yeah, we want to be part of that.
"Why would they want to sit on the old pay rates that they're getting when there's something a heck of a lot better.
"One of the great things about this I think is that it will encourage fluent Māori speakers to actually look at being a kaiako in a kōhanga reo as a career option."
It is a decade since the Waitangi Tribunal found the government's policies were failing kōhanga reo, making them unsustainable.
Kaiako were underpaid, and kōhanga were under-resourced, the tribunal found, which meant they were left struggling.
In 1993, there were 820 kōhanga. Today, there are 430.
Procter said while pay parity is one step, there are still many more issues to resolve.
"We have a thousand mokopuna on waiting lists around the country to get into kōhanga reo. Those tamariki may miss out on the best pathway for them due to the fact that our buildings aren't either up to scratch or can service that waiting list."
Procter said the Crown has an obligation to meet the needs of tamariki Māori.
"Kōhanga reo should be the primary option for all tamariki Māori, they should all be able to attend kōhanga reo as an option to them. Sadly that isn't the case at the moment."
Davis said the fact pay parity has taken a decade doesn't mean work hasn't been underway.
"This is about an ongoing relationship, and I think that we've proved that over the years we've engaged with them on the issues that matter to them and we've supported that with funding, and I think they will end up receiving over time more than they ever would have thought of if they had just received the settlement for their claim and we'd walked away."
He said the pay parity is just one part of trying to address the disparities kōhanga face.