‘One of those glass ceilings we’ve shattered’ – Davis on new law in te reo Māori

Māori Crown Relations Minister Kelvin Davis has welcomed the translation of secondary legislation into te reo Māori, saying it is a “historic” moment for New Zealand.

“It’s the first time an Order in Council has been translated into both languages,” Davis said.

“We’ve come a long way from when (now Dame) Naida Glavish lost her job for saying ‘Kia ora’ on the phone and Joanna Paul said ‘Kia ora’ to start the news on TV and you would have thought the world ended.”

The Order in Council (secondary legislation), which was made under the recently passed wānanga enabling framework, converts Te Wānanga o Raukawa to a ‘non-Crown entity’ as of January 1, 2024, effectively letting the organisation be responsible to the iwi and hapū that established it.

Davis said the translation was a sign of the government’s commitment to te reo Māori.

“It’s a perfect start to Mahuru Māori, a month of speaking te reo,” he said. “I think it’s a sign that we’re maturing as a country and also the way that Māori are engaging with the Crown and the way that we also celebrate our reo.”

Davis said he hoped to see more secondary legislation translated into Te Reo Māori.

“It’s quite labour intensive but it’s important we make sure that Māori have access to information and services in their own language,” he said.

Not co-governance

Te Wānanga o Raukawa had gone to the Waitangi Tribunal over issues related to honoring rangatiratanga and kawanatanga, making the legislation a historic redress.

“Rangatiratanga in action,” is how Davis described the change. Ignoring the noise from the opposition about co-governance “We just went ‘Nah, we’re doing it.’” Davis said.

Davis dismissed the concept of co-governance in the legislation; given the bill addresses Māori institutions, he called it “cooperation”.

“It’s about Māori being able to make decisions regarding their own educational interests,” he said. “What’s wrong with that, people being able to have a say in their own destiny?”

“The three iwi that established the wānanga felt that they should be answerable to them, not to a minister of the Crown or to the government,” he said. “And I totally agree.”

Davis said that he was confident that the wānanga would continue to provide high-quality education under the new arrangement.

Non-Māori could point the finger

“We expect our standards to be even better and higher because we owe it to our people,” he said.

“If standards drop, it’ll just be an opportunity for non-Maori to point the finger and go, ‘Oh, there you go. Give it to Māoris, and, you know, it’s not as good as it used to be’,” Davis said.

Pressed on the potential for similar developments in other government departments, Davis was optimistic: “I’m sure what we’re doing is just the tip of the iceberg. You’ve got to have a willing minister, a willing agency, and a willing government to say, ‘Let’s find ways to make it happen.’”

“The real hard graft has been done by the likes of Naida Glavish and Joanna Paul, and we’re now building on the momentum they started,” he said.

“I think this is just another one of those glass ceilings that we’ve shattered.”

Undeterred by polls

Davis says the legislation was a positive note for Parliament to finish on but his focus now shifts to campaign mode.

In the 2020 general election, he commanded a 20 per cent lead over his rivals in the Te Tai Tokerau electorate but says he’s not complacent.

‘First of all, I don’t ever consider Te Tai Tokerau a safe seat. You’ve got to go out there and work and earn, again, the respect of the electorate,’ Davis said.

‘So, I am looking forward to getting out and about because, as a minister, it’s really difficult to be present in the electorate all the time.’

Questioned about polls suggesting Labour could be out of power from October 14, Davis was optimistic.

‘We know that the polls will fluctuate. And obviously, it’s better to be on the top side of the polls rather than underneath the opposition. But I think it’s going to be very tight,” he concluded.