Regional | Government

Normalisation of te reo Māori pushed across the board

The government's Māori language strategy, Maihi Karauna, is normalising the use of te reo across 200 ministries and agencies overseen by the Māori Language Commission.

The Māori language is encouraged in some workplaces, with the IRD, Corrections and Education ministries paying their staff more if they speak Māori, and a majority of the government bodies looking to embrace the language.

Te Taura Whiri i Te Reo Māori chief executive Ngahiwi Apanui says the Crown has a duty to uphold the status of the Treaty.

“All of government, the Crown, who have an obligation to embody the facets of the Treaty of Waitangi, are unable, no matter who they are, to avoid those responsibilities,” Apanui says.

Assessing the quality of the Māori language within government services is important but, with few Māori language experts, it's difficult to carry this out.

Apanui says groups are carefully selected to ensure the quality of the language is held to a high standard.

“This is why Waka Kōtahi (NZTA) set up a group of Māori language experts, aided by Te Mātāwai, first starting with us at Te Taura Whiri, then moving on to Te Mātāwai,” he says.

Criticism 'ignorant'

Over the past two years, the Māori Language Commission helped 48 government ministries and agencies develop Māori language plans, a small but important start for the language.

“The majority of criticism I've seen has come from ignorance, not from racism. However, some people say they are one and the same. But for me, racism is something even God is unable to change, unable to change their thoughts. Their thoughts are set in stone. But the many who agreed said 'Yes, the language is something that we need to speak, we need to embody in our workplaces',” Apanui says.

The Māori language and culture are unique to this country but few tourist operators have made use of the benefits. NZ Māori Tourism cultural advisor Whitiaua Black says more operators are now attending classes suited to develop not only their language but also their understanding of tikanga.

“One of our main goals at NZ  Māori Tourism is that our business' and our companies attend kura reo around the country. Not just for the language but also for an understanding of customs and practices, to intertwine our Māori businesses with the respected keepers of the land upon where they stand,” Black says.