Politics | Waitangi Tribunal

Crown responds on day two of Waitangi Tribunal urgent reo Māori inquiry

Day two of the urgent Waitangi Tribunal inquiry into claims the government is backing off from te reo Māori, saw the Crown putting its case. Yesterday the tribunal heard claims of sadness and dissatisfaction from iwi about the government cutting back on usage of te reo Māori.

Ngāti Rēhia descendant and leader Kipa Munro says it’s time for Māori bashing to come to an end.

“Me mutu tēnei mahi takahi i tō tātou reo, me mutu tēnei mahi takahi i ō tātou tikanga, me mutu tēnei mahi e whakapēhi ana i a Ngāi Māori.”

(This needs to stop, the trampling on our language, trampling on our tikanga, suppressing Māori people.)

Today cross examinations began with the Crown’s witness, the acting Public Service Commissioner, Heather Baggot of Ngāti Maniapoto and Te Āti Awa.

The cross examination was led by Māori lawyer Mataanuku Mahuika and the exchange between him and Baggot covered the importance of putting words into action.

Mahuika: “Words are just words unless you act on them, that’s fair, isn’t it?”

Baggot: “That’s true and those words are also reflected in the draft government workforce policy statement and probably for the first time ever that they’ve probably been included in a government workforce policy statement.”

Lawyer: “Yes but it’s all very well to say that you support the promotion and protection of something, that only matters if you do positive things in order to promote te reo Māori doesn’t it? And unless, until you do that, then that’s all those are aren’t they? Just words?”

One angle Baggot took was that people had opinions on everything the government did.

She said the government converting government department names back to primarily English names first, wasn’t wrong.

“There is a question as to how you interpret the coalition commitment, ensure public service departments have their primary names in English when the reality is, apart from two departments, all of their legal names are in English. The only two that have Māori names when talking about government departments are Te Puni Kōkiri and Oranga Tamariki.”

However, when it comes to names, Mahuika had a different view: “It occurs to me that we called Mt Taranaki, Mt Egmont for a long time and no one ever turned up at the wrong place. No one turned up at Tongariro, or Hikurangi, they got to Taranaki and over time they became accustomed to the idea that it’s Mt Taranaki to the point that no one really knows nowadays or refers to it as Mt Egmont any longer. Isn’t that the thing about names, if you give a name and you use it people become accustomed to it?”