Indigenous | Te Reo Māori

Te reo Māori in public sector: More work to be done for normalisation of te reo

Te reo is still in a fragile state, Te Puni Kōkiri deputy secretary Paula Rawiri says. Photo: RNZ / Jessica Hopkins

This article was first published by RNZ

Two prominent Māori public servants have given evidence at the penultimate day of the Waitangi Tribunal’s Te Reo in the Public Sector hearing.

Te Puni Kōkiri deputy secretary Paula Rawiri was first to give evidence in the morning.

Government agencies have made steady progress but there is more work to be done in the normalisation of te reo, she said.

“To date as the principal policy advisor to government Te Puni Kōkiri have experienced no changes to our work because of the commitments in the coalition agreements, the work substantially remains the same.

“Not withstanding this we know that language can play an important role in creating social cohesion within and across communities, it’s well evidenced that ones identity language and culture are essential building blocks a critical ingredients to realising success.”

In cross-examination Rawiri was asked whether the coalition agreement would lead to a cohesive approach to the revitilisation of te reo.

“Not withstanding the importance of political neutrality as a public servant, based on the evidence and what we know works and doesn’t work [the coalition agreement] would not be helpful in terms of the revitilisation of te reo Māori. That would be my advice.”

In cross-examination by claimant lawyer Matanuku Mahuika - Rawiri was brought to tears after he acknowledged her whakapapa.

“Look, this is an emotional topic isn’t it because it matters so much, that’s why it makes us feel the way that it does, that’s why there is so much passion associated with it,” Mahuika said.

He asked Rawiri if she believed te reo was still in a fragile state - she replied that it was.

Ngahiwi Apanui-Barr. Photo: Ngahiwi Apanui Barr

Also taking the stand Te Taura Whiri Māori Language Commission chief executive Ngahiwi Apanui-Barr.

Even though there was no policy as yet, many in the public sector were nervous because of what has been said by government ministers, he said.

“Arā ētahi i te wā o te pōtitanga e whakaaro ana he aha e rata ake ana te iwi whānui o Aotearoa ki au, ka puta ēnei mea, as I respectfully put it, pahupahu. Hei tō mai i te tangata kia pōti mō rātau.”

“During the election politicians were thinking what can I do to get people to vote for me, so we heard a lot of, as I respectfully put it, bluster. In order to get votes.”

At the moment there was a lack of direction and consistency for te reo Māori because there was no policy in place yet, he said.

“Kotahi te reo ake o tēnei whenua, katoa ngā reo i haria mai, i haria mai i rāwahi, i whenua kē. Koinei mātau e mea nei me kōrero Māori a Aotearoa whānui.”

“There is only one language of this land, every other language was brought here from overseas. That’s why we advocate for everybody in Aotearoa to speak Māori.”

Claimants and the Crown will give their closing submissions tomorrow.

By Pokere Paewai of RNZ