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Te Wiki o te Reo Māori

Written By: - Date published: 11:00 am, September 10th, 2018 - 61 comments
Categories: greens, labour, national, Nikki Kaye, nz first, Politics, Simon Bridges, the praiseworthy and the pitiful - Tags:

It is te wiki o te Reo Māori or Maori language week.  Make sure that you use te Reo Māori as much as possible.

Te Reo Māori is of course one of our country’s treasures.  As the Waitangi Tribunal said in one of its most important decisions:

The ‘guarantee’ in the Treaty requires affirmative action to protect and sustain the language, not a passive obligation to tolerate its existence and certainly not a right to deny its use in any place. It is, after all, the first language of the country, the language of the original inhabitants and the language in which the first signed copy of the Treaty was written. But educational policy over many years and the effect of the media in using almost nothing but English has swamped the Maori language and done it great harm.

We have recorded much of what we were told of the effect upon Maori children of our educational policy and it makes dismal reading. It seems that many Maori children leave school uneducated by normal standards, and that disability bedevils their progress for the rest of their lives.

We have recommended that te reo Maori should be restored to its proper place by making it an official language of New Zealand with the right to use it on any public occasion, in the Courts, in dealing with Government Departments, with local authorities and with all public bodies. We say that it should be widely taught from an early stage in the educational process. We think instruction in Maori should be available as of right to the children of parents who seek it.

The Tribunal did not recommend that its learning be compulsory but the decision is now 32 years old and it is time to review this issue.

To make matters awkward for National Nikki Kaye’s Education Amendment Bill was recently selected for consideration by Parliament.  The bill establishes a minimum of 10 national priority languages, including te Reo Māori and New Zealand Sign Language among a list of languages to be considered by a school.  A priority language is then selected and the school is obliged to maintain and support a priority language programme.  We could have French and not te Reo Māori selected the way I read the bill.  Compulsory learning of a second language will be in force, but the language may not be te Reo Māori.

And Simon Bridges has made a statement that appears to potentially contradict Nikki Kaye’s effort.  From Dan Satherley at Newshub:

“I don’t support compulsory, never will,” Simon Bridges told The AM Show on Monday.

“I think it’s great there’s a renaissance in the language, that more and more people are seeing the importance of it. I think what’s really pleasing is people are doing this off their own bat.

“My children, it’s amazing – they can speak Te Reo much better than I can, and actually a bit of Mandarin. That’s great – but not compulsory.”

Labour has been somewhat supportive whereas the Greens have been much more assertive and want Te Reo Maori to be a core curriculum subject in the not distant future.  Peters is opposed.  The joys of coalition Government …

If you want to practice your Te Reo and make a public commitment to doing so this handy site has a lot of information and resources.

61 comments on “Te Wiki o te Reo Māori”

  1. Robert Guyton 1

    The Key quote…stellar…I need to sit down…is he…The Messiah?

    • Robert Guyton 1.1

      He tangata tinihanga ia 🙂

    • Incognito 1.2

      It’s a shocker of a quote, even for Sir John.

      Language is much more than stringing a few words together. The quote is also one-sided in that it only refers to “I” [Sir John] but not to a person who communicated these words in the first place; words don’t say anything as such, they don’t have (a) meaning in their own right. It’s only when they’re communicated from one human mind to another one that they come to life, so to speak. Language is a two-way thing, even when it applies to one’s inner voice and narrative.

  2. roy cartland 2

    I’ll throw in the first spanner, then…

    It shouldn’t be ‘compulsory’, which brings to mind images of bayoneted guards poking students in the back.

    It should be ‘part of the curriculum’. It’s the curriculum that’s compulsory.

    The difference is in the language, which is so important in these emotional debates. ‘Forced to do it’ vs ‘part of one’s education’.

    • xanthe 2.1

      I agree here Roy
      a second language and Te Reo should be required to be available in the curriculum. after that it is an individual choice.

  3. Michelle 3

    how would john know about any language he is all about money not about people

  4. Lucy 4

    That quote from John Key wasn’t a real quote was it?

    • ianmac 4.1

      Even if it wasn’t a real quote it is credible by Key standard.

    • Dennis Frank 4.2

      I typed the damn thing as a quote & googled it: no website match found. Got this though: “a pleonasm can also be simply an unremarkable use of idiom”. So not a keyism from the unremarkable Key, a clever pleonasm by MS?

  5. Bill 5

    One way to view the issue of compulsory teaching, might be to look at Wales. Way back in the 80s, at least in North Wales, it was bog standard to walk into a situation and not hear any English being spoken.

    Where things seem to have fallen over somewhat, is that although the Welsh preserved a degree of culture through successfully promoting the speaking of Welsh – and Plaid Cymru played a big part in that – , it came at the cost of developing or protecting a broader political culture. (So for example, contrast the fortunes of the SNP and Plaid Cymru around the issue of independence or autonomy…)

    I’m not suggesting an imbalance is inevitable, or that a broader political culture and culture as language can’t progress hand in hand. For what it’s worth, I think they can and should.

    But maybe a level of awareness on the possible effects of putting too much energy into one front, while being complacent on the other front, could be useful? Or then again, maybe it’s irrelevant in a New Zealand context.

    • D'Esterre 5.1

      Bill: “back in the 80s, at least in North Wales, it was bog standard to walk into a situation and not hear any English being spoken.”

      Indeed. At that time, Welsh was the first language for many, if not most, people living there. I recall hearing an interview with Bryn Terfel, in which he talked about Welsh being his first language.

      In the winter of 2005-6, we were in Ireland. On the Ring of Kerry – a Gaeltacht area – we stopped at a pub for lunch in Waterville. Apart from the waiter who took our order, we appeared to be the only people speaking English.

      In the years since, both Irish and Welsh have lost ground. Which vividly illustrates how quickly a language can get into trouble. God knows, if any polity had a head start on indigenous language preservation, it’s Ireland.

      Language survival critically depends upon its being people’s first language. That is, the language infants hear around them, that they learn to speak exclusively for the first few years of their lives, without interference from another language such as English.

      As I understand things, it’s interference from English that’s causing problems in both Ireland and Wales. What seems to be happening is that bilingualism among infants and very young children is gradually supplanting exclusive use of Irish and Welsh. And being bilingual isn’t the same thing as being a native speaker. It doesn’t matter if a language isn’t endangered. But that’s not the case there. And it’s certainly not the case for te reo Maori.

      Here as elsewhere, the biological imperatives of language prevail. The survival – let alone the revitalisation – of te reo Maori is critically dependent upon there being enough people who are native speakers, that is, who have te reo as their first language. The responsibility for that falls upon Maori, whose language and heritage it is. The compulsory teaching of te reo in schools just isn’t by itself sufficient, even were there enough competent teachers.

      • Bill 5.1.1

        Can I add to that the fact that “everything” coming at people through magazines, TVs, radios and what not, tends to be in English?

        Yes, Wales has one TV channel broadcasting in Welsh. And yes, there’s Maori TV.

        But in both instances there’s a huge clatter of English based media effectively drowning them out. And that’s ignoring the tendency of those English based media to then not cover issues pertaining to those language groups, and the subsequent marginalisation or ghettoisation of their politics.

  6. Gosman 6

    No language should be compulsory. Te Reo should be a preferred option but that is all.

    • solkta 6.1

      But without a compulsory language how will they communicate?

      • Incognito 6.1.1

        Communicate is such big over-rated word. A truly wise man says nothing yet communicates everything he knows, which is nothing. This tells us that the Leader of the Free World POTUS you-know-whom has travelled far on The Spiritual Path of Enlightenment, because his preferred communication short outbursts is via Tweets.

        • Tuppence Shrewsbury

          is “Communicate” over rated because Clare Curran lost the ability too, and Jacinda got pilloried for not doing it?

          • Incognito

            I believe you’re conflating communication with conspiracy. Don’t worry, it’s quite a common mistake and can be easily corrected with some basic education in critical & independent thinking. To facilitate the process I’d like to suggest that you keep reading TS but refrain from commenting here for 3-6 months or so; watch & learn.

        • Dennis Frank

          Clever. Insightful of you – wish I’d thought of it!! 😄

        • the other pat

          ahh yes….The Book Of Tweets….Lao Tse would roll over in his grave with that one

      • Gosman 6.1.2

        People can decide what languages they should learn to enable them to communicate.

    • Dennis Frank 6.2

      People ought to be free to choose how to live their lives? Not sure that such a radical notion will ever catch on. Being told how to live is a powerful tradition in Aotearoa. Just look at the paternalism many commenters here are advocating.

    • D'Esterre 6.3

      Gosman: “No language should be compulsory.”

      Indeed. The whole point of any language is its utility. If people don’t find a language useful, they won’t use it and can’t be forced to do so.

      English is the language of daily life here, so in my view, it should be compulsory in the curriculum.

      The same isn’t true of te reo Maori, which simply doesn’t have a critical mass of speakers. It can be included in the curriculum, but the crucial issue is whether there are enough competent te reo speakers to teach it. As I understand the current situation, there’s a serious shortage of such teachers.

      It’s catch-22, really.

      • left_forward 6.3.1

        What arrogant hogwash.
        Maori is the first language of Aotearoa, and one of the two languages of daily life where I live, so following your utilitarian logic… it should be compulsory.

        • D'Esterre

          Left_forward: “What arrogant hogwash.”

          Instead of slinging ad homs around, how about you engage with what I said?

          I’m well aware of the weight of culture and heritage that’s freighted on to any language. I’ve always been a bit of a language buff; I see the value of the survival of every language that I’ve learned, including te reo.

          But it’s indisputable that if a language isn’t useful to people, they won’t use it. The Irish have found this out. Much as many of us deplore the potential loss of Irish, it’s probably inevitable in the long run, sadly. Last I read, the numbers of native speakers in the Gaeltacht areas is declining; the language has been taken up by middle-class urbanites as a second language. And that’s a very bad sign.

          “Maori is the first language of Aotearoa”

          I know the status of te reo: all that happened when I was a youngish adult and taking a close interest in these things. But it doesn’t at all follow that it’s widely used now.

          “one of the two languages of daily life where I live”

          It certainly isn’t in the area where I live. But if that’s so in your area, it sounds as if you don’t need compulsion: hopefully, people will continue to use the language where you are. And hopefully at least a proportion of them are native speakers.

          But it’s also indisputable that there’s a serious shortage of competent te reo teachers, which speaks to the paucity of te reo native speakers. This was on RNZ this afternoon: https://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/afternoons/audio/2018662378/lack-of-te-reo-teachers

          • left_forward

            Cheers D’Esterre, apologies for my thrown ad hom, but I am indeed engaging with you. I am frustrated that such a gloomy outlook for our fundamental culture be invented on this thread.

            There is a lot at stake here.

            No, compulsory te reo classes at school are still required to maintain the language where I live just as it is everywhere in NZ, in the same way that we maintain the English language to ensure its continuing use – via compulsory curricula.
            These are choices we make in society, it is only catch-22 when we do not individually and collectively intervene to create the world we want.

            The key point that you keep making is easily addressed if this is the choice we make… train more te reo teachers… make it a priority!

            • D'Esterre

              Left_forward: “I am frustrated that such a gloomy outlook for our fundamental culture be invented on this thread.”

              Not invented by me, I assure you. Many other commentators have said the same thing elsewhere. They’re right, of course, but I’ve noticed an unwillingness on the part of language activists to accept what they say.

              I’ve been at pains to point out that the principles of language survival apply to every language, not just those like te reo which are endangered.

              “There is a lot at stake here.”

              You’re dead right about that. There’s no time to lose.

              “No, compulsory te reo classes at school are still required to maintain the language where I live just as it is everywhere in NZ, in the same way that we maintain the English language to ensure its continuing use – via compulsory curricula.”

              English doesn’t need any help to survive. It’s interference from English that’s causing the decline of various indigenous languages around the world.

              “it is only catch-22 when we do not individually and collectively intervene to create the world we want.”

              The catch-22 to which I referred is the fact that competent speakers are needed to teach the language, yet there’s a shortage of such people. So: ability to produce competent speakers is constrained by a lack of competent speakers who can be trained to teach the language.

              It isn’t fatalism to point out these things: it’s realism. Failure to take account of them is a serious mistake.

  7. CHCOff 7

    At the appropriate age level, having it’s basics taught in tandem with English grammatical function and syntax, so it serves as a compliment to that and the conception of language usage as a whole.

    That will then help with the comprehension of English as relates to other studies, and indeed provide a bigger future doorway into learning other languages, including Te Reo, if the students so choose.

  8. mary_a 8

    Being a major language of Aotearoa, of course compulsory te reo Maori should be part of the educational curriculum.

    Same for sign, a recognised language here, which also should be compulsory in NZ schools.

    • D'Esterre 8.1

      mary_a: “of course compulsory te reo Maori should be part of the educational curriculum.”

      Who is going to teach it?

  9. Gareth Wilson 9

    If you’ve read stories about old-timey English public schools, you have a model for the reaction to compulsory Maori. The characters’ most hated subject is always the compulsory French, which they see as utterly meaningless to their lives. Despite having millions of monolingual French speakers just a ferry trip away. Granted, you don’t have to learn lists of irregular verbs by rote to speak Maori. But learning any language is hard, boring work, and Maori won’t be any more popular. Let’s go over the verb particles again. Inceptive, past, perfect, desiderative, prescriptive, non-past, cautionary, punctative-conditional, imperfect- THWACK! Pay attention, Molesworth.

    • D'Esterre 9.1

      Gareth Wilson: “Let’s go over the verb particles again. Inceptive, past, perfect, desiderative, prescriptive, non-past, cautionary, punctative-conditional, imperfect-”

      Crikey! What language was that? Sounds more complicated than Latin, one of the languages which I studied at school. Wouldn’t be Russian, would it?

  10. SHG 10

    Good to see Key Derangement Syndrome is alive and well.

    • veutoviper 10.1

      If it’s alive and well, then it must be a good thing. QED.

    • Morrissey 10.2

      Creepy Key and his cowardly idiot son deserve everything that they get. What is unforgivable is the right’s pathetic attacks on the prime minister and her partner—-derangement is the kindest word one could use for these sad right wing ninnies.

  11. You are right that the 1986 Waitangi Tribunal ruling did not call for Te Reo to be made compulsory. To those saying Te Reo should be compulsory because it is an official language: It was explicitly promised by the government at the time of the 1987 Maori Language Act that this would not make Te Reo compulsory to anyone.

    • Dennis Frank 11.1

      Yeah but that was a promise by a Labour government. What kind of person would believe such promises??

    • phantom snowflake 11.2

      You’re suggesting that one piece of legislation from 1987 dictates the future of Te Reo Maori for all of eternity. What??

  12. Koff 12

    Maori is also a link to our doorstep – the Pacific. Southern Cooks and Tahitian are very similar languages, Hawai’ian, Marquesan a little less so. Most of the other Polynesian languages have many words in common. Where I worked in PNG a boat was a waga and an island a motu. Even Indonesian has similar words like ikan (ika/fish). Unfortunately, first language English speakers are generally lazy and arrogant about learning any other language. It makes me embarrassed to meet many Europeans who so easily speak several languages.

    • D'Esterre 12.1

      Koff: “Maori is also a link to our doorstep – the Pacific. Southern Cooks and Tahitian are very similar languages, Hawai’ian, Marquesan a little less so.”

      Indeed. They’re all Austronesian languages, markers of the voyages of the Polynesian ancestors across the Pacific. And the other way, to Madagascar: Malagasy is also an Austronesian language.

      It would be a tragedy if te reo were lost; as far as I’m aware, no other Austronesian languages have died out. But there’s a real risk of that, if the numbers of native speakers continue to fall.

  13. Ad 13

    Anyone elses workplace rolling out a new phrase per day?

  14. Dennis Frank 14

    Well, it’s starting to look like a classic government shambles, and/or a typical leftist sham. I’m picking that Labour have failed to secure the agreement of NZF – probably because they haven’t actually tried to do so.

    Why would a Labour minister announce a govt policy that the govt hasn’t actually agreed to adopt?? Two feasible explanations: incompetence or duplicity. Tova O’Brien seems close to figuring this out: https://www.newshub.co.nz/home/politics/2018/09/mass-confusion-over-government-s-te-reo-m-ori-in-school-policy.html

    Looks like Labour intends to use state compulsion without actually being honest enough to say so. Very traditional Labour of them, eh? A lesson in how to lose friends and fail to influence people…

    • BM 14.1

      Christ, this government is a complete fuck up.

      Be easier just to ask Mr 7% what’s going on, he’s the real PM, the other one’s just there for the photo ops.

      • marty mars 14.1.1

        what a disaster – OMG!!! this is SHIT and SO bad – just awful.

        BM and Dennis are agreeing – what next – come on you 4 horsemen we can take it.

        • Dennis Frank

          Tova: “Four months ago, Ms Mahuta also spoke about wanting compulsory Te Reo – Winston Peters threatened her, telling her to get in line. New Zealand First is fresh from destroying Labour’s plans to double the refugee quota, and it also put the brakes on Labour’s plan to repeal the three strikes law. You can be sure Winston Peters won’t back compulsory Te Reo, especially not with Labour’s policy completely all over the shop.”

          Headlines will be generated by this cock-up, probably starting tomorrow. Time to get real, you guys…

          • Ad

            Peters be way better playa than Ardern.

          • marty mars

            Headlines are good this week around this topic – soon enough many Pākehā will forget all about it as something else takes their fancy. You see Māori really are only useful as political footballs for some.

        • Dennis Frank

          Just to be perfectly clear about it, Marty, I’m not likely to stop supporting this government anytime soon (so I don’t agree with BM). Nor will I stop pointing out their stupid mistakes!

  15. Antoine 15

    Would be very unpopular, Peters will veto


  16. SPC 16

    1. All schools should provide Maori for those who want to learn.

    2. The government should work to ensure there are enough teachers for those who want to learn Maori.

    3. In the meantime using teaching by on-line video.

    • D'Esterre 16.1

      SPC: “The government should work to ensure there are enough teachers for those who want to learn Maori.”

      But that’s the rub: there aren’t enough competent speakers of the language. And the government can’t magic them up out of nowhere.

      “In the meantime using teaching by on-line video.”

      By itself, that isn’t enough to produce competent speakers.

  17. koreropono 17

    It’s a bit sad that we’re still having this debate over whether or not te reo, the indigenous language of Atotearoa, should be compulsory. Considering that there was (and still is in some quarters) a concerted effort to eradicate te reo through various institutions (education, religion etc) then those same institutions should take responsibility for rebuilding the language, the culture and the well-being of those affected by the machinations of colonisation.

    We’ve lost a considerable amount of everyday knowledge because of the denigration of te reo. I recently had the pleasure of listening to a Kaumatua explain some of the many truths that lay behind many common Maori ‘myths’ through understanding symbols to gain broader meaning in the stories and sadly I think we’re all the poorer for not having those old knowledges to draw from. Nothing short of a revival of te reo will strengthen Maori culture and well-being, and strengthen the Tiriti partnership. Te reo is being strengthened in small pockets in some schools and thankfully some forward thinking teachers are incorporating te reo (alongside other languages in the classroom) as a matter of course. However, this is generally being left to the will of individual schools and teachers, which is a disservice to the broader Tiriti partnership between Maori and Tauiwi.

  18. Paul Campbell 18

    I think a week is just not long enough these days, seems like it takes a couple of weeks for the the racist pakeha to get over themselves before anyone can focus on the task at hand, please could we have a month next year

  19. D'Esterre 19

    Koreropono: “…whether or not te reo, the indigenous language of Atotearoa, should be compulsory.”

    Compulsion won’t help, if people don’t wish to learn or use the language. In addition, even now there aren’t enough teachers competent in the language; that shortage would be exacerbated by compulsion. And this isn’t a workforce problem that immigration could fix.

    “Considering that there was (and still is in some quarters) a concerted effort to eradicate te reo through various institutions (education, religion etc)”

    I’m a boomer, and I’m pakeha. I learned te reo as a young adult, almost 50 years ago now, because I was working in schools, and with Maori children, a job I did for many years after that. I remember when Maori language week was instituted, in 1975. What you suggest here hasn’t been my experience.

    Remember that the 1867 Native Schools Act explicitly banned the speaking of Maori in schools. And this was done at the request of Maori, the rationale being that children would learn Maori at home, but they should acquire English skills at school. Maori saw English proficiency as vital for their people to get access to jobs and education.

    I was around when the kohanga reo movement got under way. It was well-intentioned, but from this vantage point, it’s clear that it wasn’t by itself the right approach to revitalising the language.

    It would have been far more productive, had all that publicity and resource gone into persuading parents to bring their babies up to speak te reo exclusively (no English) as their first language, for the first few years of their lives. Such people are known as native speakers. All languages need native speakers if they are to survive and thrive: te reo is no different in that regard. Back in the 70s and early 80s, there were still considerable numbers of native speakers. Nowadays, I suspect numbers are vanishingly small, if there are any at all.

    This will make language revitalisation a much more difficult enterprise.

    “…some forward thinking teachers are incorporating te reo (alongside other languages in the classroom) as a matter of course.”

    Again: this won’t save the language. Education is very important, but those native speakers are vital to language survival, let alone revival.

    • left_forward 19.1

      Rima tekau nga tau, i ako koe i te reo Maori!
      Kei hea tou reo inaianei?
      Ae marika – korero Maori e hoa!

    • koreropono 19.2

      “Compulsion won’t help, if people don’t wish to learn or use the language. In addition, even now there aren’t enough teachers competent in the language; that shortage would be exacerbated by compulsion”

      More and more people want to learn and use the language and frankly teachers need to pick up their game if they want to teach Maori children. There are some excellent teachers who take the time and make the effort to educate themselves and incorporate tikanga and te reo into their lessons. They do so in a way that normalises Maori culture and the use of te reo, which adds an extensive repertoire of Maori kupu to their students’ vocabulary. If some teachers can’t be bothered or are too lazy to do this then they are part of a broader problem and as far as I am concerned they contribute to the on-going colonisation process.

      “I’m a boomer, and I’m pakeha. I learned te reo as a young adult, almost 50 years ago now, because I was working in schools, and with Maori children, a job I did for many years after that. I remember when Maori language week was instituted, in 1975. What you suggest here hasn’t been my experience”

      Just because this hasn’t been YOUR experience, doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. Eradicating te reo was very much at the forefront of the colonisation process and to deny this because YOU didn’t experience it, is uneducated at best. As you well know Maori language was banned in a number of areas, including government departments, hospitals, schools and religious institutions.

      Maori have to challenge backward attitudes about te reo on a daily basis, while rich white fossils get media air time to spout their racist diatribe, and use their power to influence the views of their eager audience of ignorant rednecks.

      “Remember that the 1867 Native Schools Act explicitly banned the speaking of Maori in schools. And this was done at the request of Maori, the rationale being that children would learn Maori at home, but they should acquire English skills at school. Maori saw English proficiency as vital for their people to get access to jobs and education”

      It’s interesting how we choose our preferred historical perspective and that sometimes even presenting part of the story alters the facts, almost to the point of dishonesty. I would be interested in knowing your source for the above information. I was taught that Maori parents were told that their tamariki would become retarded if allowed to speak te reo. That mentality was still evident in the 1960’s ( see https://www.odt.co.nz/opinion/celebrate-admire-consolidate for further details). In fact it is long recognised that Maori underachievement in education is related to schools and teachers’ lack of cultural responsiveness. And that’s still an issue today with cultural responsiveness being tied to ‘tick box’ exercises in some sectors, including te Wiki o te Reo, which some quarters participate in with gusto, whilst ignoring te reo during the rest of the year.

      “I was around when the kohanga reo movement got under way. It was well-intentioned, but from this vantage point, it’s clear that it wasn’t by itself the right approach to revitalising the language”

      It would be great to see your sources showing kohanga wasn’t the ‘right approach to revitalising” te reo. I think the following link provides a more realistic view of whether or not kohanga has been successful https://teara.govt.nz/en/te-reo-maori-the-maori-language/print .

      As to the comments that resources should have been put into teaching parents to korero Maori to their pepi can’t be argued with, however given the already sharp decline in native/fluent speakers, perhaps Maori chose the best option for them. The kohanga movement was very successful, but herein lies another colonisation story when Government chose to poke its nose into the mix.

      The rest of your comments are fatalistic and show a level of deficit based thinking that is not uncommon among those who think they know better than Maori. Maori have had enough of that kind of thinking, particularly from old Pakeha men who think they know what’s best when it comes to te Ao Maori.

      • left_forward 19.2.1

        E tautoko ana au ki a koe.
        I entirely agree with you. Thank you for such an articulate response to D’Esterre’s arrogant platitudes and fatalism.

      • D'Esterre 19.2.2

        Koreropono: “More and more people want to learn and use the language….”

        This may well be so; if it is, that reinforces my observation about the shortage of teachers competent in te reo. I assume a) that you’re Maori and b) that you want to see te reo rescued and revitalised. In which case, surely you’d be wanting competent te reo speakers to be teaching people how to speak the language? Having teachers, who know only a smattering of the language and aren’t competent speakers, merely incorporating words and phrases into their lessons, won’t save it.

        In any event, that’s tokenism of the most patronising sort: akin to what RNZ is doing at present. Years ago, in the Henare Te Ua years, RNZ used to broadcast long-form programmes entirely in te reo. I know: I used to listen to them. That’s what it should be doing now, instead of forcing presenters to use (and – sadly – often butcher) a few words and phrases. I cringe when i hear a presenter say “Ko …. tenei”. My teacher would have rapped me over the knuckles for that: it should be “ahau”, not “tenei”. Unless, of course, there’s been a big shift in language usage.

        “Eradicating te reo was very much at the forefront of the colonisation process…”

        That’s not exactly right, nor is it quite accurate; I cited the 1867 Native Schools Act as evidence of what Maori back then wanted, and what happened in schools as a result. But a century later, by the 1970s, there was emerging recognition of the value of te reo, and a desire to resurrect its use. There were still native speakers even then: I was taught by one such person.

        “As you well know Maori language was banned in a number of areas, including government departments, hospitals, schools and religious institutions.”

        I know no such thing. Of course it wasn’t banned in the 70s; had that been so, it wouldn’t have been taught in the institution in which I learned it. By 1975, we had Maori Language Week.

        Although I’d add that those of us pakeha who’d learned te reo back in the 70s found that we didn’t always get an enthusiastic reception from Maori. So now you want us to learn and speak your language?

        “would be interested in knowing your source for the above information.”


        “1867: Native Schools Act decrees that English should be the only language used in the education of Māori children. The policy is later rigorously enforced.
        1890s: Many Māori language newspapers publish national and international news. Māori is the predominant language of the Māori zone.
        1913: Ninety percent of Māori school children are native Māori speakers. Te Puke ki Hikurangi, Te Mareikura and other Māori newspapers publish national and international news and events in Māori as well extensive coverage of farming activities.
        1920s: Sir Āpirana Ngata begins lecturing Māori communities about the need to promote Māori language use in homes and communities, while also promoting English language education for Māori in schools.
        1930s: Māori remains the predominant language in Māori homes and communities. The use of English begins to increase, and there is continued support for English-only education by some Māori leaders.
        1950s: Māori urban migration continues. Māori families are ‘pepper-potted’ in predominantly non-Māori suburbs, preventing the reproduction of Māori community and speech patterns. Māori families choose to speak English, and Māori children are raised as English speakers.
        1960s: Play centre supporters encourage Māori parents to speak English in order to prepare Māori children for primary school.
        Early 1970s: Concerns for the Māori language are expressed by Māori urban groups including Ngā Tamatoa and Te Reo Māori Society.
        1972: Māori Language Petition signed by 30,000 signatories sent to Parliament.”
        As you can see, it was when the urban migration began, that the move to English began in earnest. Note that up until round about that point, Maori was the language spoken at home, even though education was usually English-only.

        “…. rich white fossils get media air time to spout their racist diatribe, and use their power to influence the views of their eager audience of ignorant rednecks.”

        Way to go with the ad homs! Meanwhile, we have to endure people like Joel Maxwell slinging around equally egregious ad homs about pakeha. How about you engage with the issues instead?

        “…it is long recognised that Maori underachievement in education is related to schools and teachers’ lack of cultural responsiveness.”

        Yeah, I used to think that too. I thought that the arrival of kura kaupapa would fix what ailed Maori academic achievement.

        However: over the years – and with the arrival of thousands of migrants from Asia, who for the most part thrived in our education system – I came to realise that the issue is class rather than ethnicity. Middle-class Maori, and those from the elites, did, and still do, well in the education system. We knew them: they went to school and training colleges and uni with us, they were doctors, nurses, police officers and teachers, lawyers and public servants and so on. Fewer in number, to be sure, but that was because the Maori middle class was still emerging.

        Working class people – Maori and pakeha alike – were less likely to do well in school and go on to further education. It wasn’t lack of aptitude: it was the culture from which they came and would usually go back to, coupled with parental expectations. That has changed in recent years, as societal expectations have changed, and recognition of the value of education has spread through the working classes.

        “It would be great to see your sources showing kohanga wasn’t the ‘right approach to revitalising” te reo.”

        Read the link you posted: the stats regarding te reo speakers are a stark illustration. I suppose it could be argued that the kohanga reo stopped te reo from falling off a cliff; but really, that’s not much of a justification. In the section on kohanga reo, there’s a sidebar with a quote from an elder, along the lines of: “when a child is born, take it, put it to the breast and begin speaking Maori to it at that point.” And that’s exactly what’s needed to save the language: those elders knew it, were saying it, even. The tragedy is that that hasn’t happened. There were still native speakers around at that stage: as I said, I was taught by one such, and that person was by no means the only native speaker in NZ at that time.

        “The kohanga movement was very successful, but herein lies another colonisation story when Government chose to poke its nose into the mix.”

        As I said earlier, I was around when the first kohanga were set up. They were a prime example of Maori taking the initiative, of front-footing what they saw as a critical need, when they couldn’t get the government of the day to do anything. It was quite something to observe, I can tell you. However: the movement needed funding and went to the government for help. And of course the government wanted accountability for the spending of taxpayer money: would anyone expect otherwise? You can call it colonisation, but I don’t think that’s an accurate characterisation.

        “The rest of your comments are fatalistic and show a level of deficit based thinking that is not uncommon among those who think they know better than Maori.”

        Fatalism: no. Realism: yes. I’ve long taken an interest in the survival of te reo, and I suggest that I have a better knowledge of some of this history than you do. I also know a bit about what it takes to resurrect a language; which is why I beat the native-speaker drum to the extent that I do. Yes, education is important with regard to literacy, but you need those native speakers for language survival. Your best strategy in my view would be to figure out a way to make that happen. Not bilingualism (I have extended family members who are bilingual): Maori only, for the first few years of a child’s life.

        Some commentators think it can’t be done, you know. Up to you all who are Maori to prove them wrong.

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  • Further measures to support businesses
    The Government will be introducing legislation to make changes to the Companies Act to help companies facing insolvency due to COVID-19 to remain viable and keep New Zealanders in jobs. The temporary changes include: Giving directors of companies facing significant liquidity problems because of COVID-19 a ‘safe harbour’ from insolvency ...
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  • Essential workers leave scheme established
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  • Susan Thomas the new Chief High Court Judge
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  • Health system scaled up to prepare for COVID-19
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  • State of National Emergency extended
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  • $27 million for NGOs and community groups to continue providing essential services
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  • COVID-19 updates
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  • Police numbers break through 10,000 mark
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  • Urgent tax measures for economic recovery
    Urgent legislation has been passed to support the package of economic and social measures needed to recover from the impact of the coronavirus outbreak. “The COVID-19 Response (Taxation and Social Assistance Urgent Measures) Bill will cushion New Zealanders from the worst economic impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak,” said Revenue Minister ...
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  • Further support for farmers and growers as drought persists
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  • COVID-19: Temporary changes to Education Act
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  • Canada, Australia, Chile, Brunei and Myanmar join NZ and Singapore in committing to keeping supply a...
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  • COVID-19: Rent increase freeze and more protection for tenants
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  • Working together to protect businesses and workers
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  • State of National Emergency declared to fight COVID-19
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  • Prime Minister’s statement on State of National Emergency and Epidemic Notice
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  • Deadline for domestic travel extended
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  • Mortgage holiday and business finance support schemes to cushion COVID impacts
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