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Māori Language (Te Reo Māori) Bill

Hon Dr Pita Sharples

Minister of Māori Affairs

Thursday 24 July 2014 SPEECH

Translation of First Reading Speech: Māori Language (Te Reo Māori) Bill

Parliament House, Wellington, 3.05pm

(This is a translation of the speech which was read in Te Reo Māori)

Mr Speaker, I move that the Māori Language (Te Reo Māori) Bill be now read a first time. I nominate the Māori Affairs Committee to consider the bill.

At the appropriate time I intend to move that the bill be reported to the House by 20 March 2015, and that the Committee have authority to meet at any time while the House is sitting (except during oral questions), during any evening on a day on which there has been a sitting of the House, and on a Friday in a week in which there has been a sitting of the House, despite Standing Orders [188 and 191(1)(b) and (c)].

Introduction

Kōrerohia te reo! The Māori language is a taonga of iwi and Māori, and an important part of the cultural identity of all New Zealanders. Our language has been embedded into the landscape of Aotearoa for as long as there have been people here. Today, it can be used to convey the full range of the human experience, as we express joy, grief, love, sorrow, anger and all the other things that make us who we are. In Māori Language Week, we celebrate the place of our language in our national life and among our whānau.

It is well known that the health of the Māori language declined over the course of the 20th century. Our response to this decline gave rise to the Māori renaissance that began in the 1970s and continues to this day. Many of our people have dedicated their lives to this cause. I mihi to those foot soldiers for te reo, who have created the foundation that we stand upon today. I acknowledge also those who fight this battle now, because there is still much hard work in front of us. Finally, I look forward to the efforts of those who will take up the challenge in the future. Kia kaha rā tātau kia tukua tēnei taonga o tātau ki ngā tai e whā.

Background

Mr Speaker, it is well documented that the health of the Māori language declined over the course of the 20th century. At the start of that momentous century, 100% of our people spoke Māori. By the 1970s, this had declined to about 20% and these people were mainly kaumātua. Leading sociolinguists predicted the death of te reo Māori. In response to this alarming prediction, the 1970s saw Māori people becoming more proactive in pressing the Government for support to save the language. Early examples of this were the presentation to Parliament of a petition calling for Māori language and culture courses to be offered in schools, and a petition asking for the establishment of a Māori television unit within the New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation.

The need for focused language learning programmes was identified. This brought about the birth of Te Ātaarangi, a language learning programme targeted towards improving the use of te reo by Māori adults. The development of total immersion Māori language education has given Kōhanga Reo – ‘Māori language learning nests’ for our tamariki, later Kura Kaupapa at the primary school level, and later still Wharekura for secondary school education and Wānanga in the tertiary sector. These organisations have all had their ‘ups and downs’. At their heart, however, remains an enduring commitment to transmitting our ancestral language to our mokopuna.

The enactment of the Māori Language Act 1987 was an important historical moment in New Zealand history. The Crown acknowledges in the preamble of the Act that the Māori language is a ‘taonga’ of iwi and Māori and provides for the Māori language to be recognised as an official language of New Zealand.

In recognition of its role as a Treaty partner, the Crown has created policies and programmes, and made funding available to support aspirations for the Māori language. In the broadcasting sector, this has included Crown funding for iwi radio stations and Māori television, both of which play an important role in revitalising the Māori language and normalising its use. This funding has been managed by Te Māngai Pāho and television programming has been delivered by the Māori Television Service. Of course, Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori has also been instrumental in supporting the revitalisation of the Māori language across a range of fields, through its focus on modernising our language and setting standards for its use, promoting its status across New Zealand society, and, in particular, supporting whānau and community language development. Mr Speaker, it is Māori Language Week this week and I would like to particularly acknowledge the leadership of Te Taura Whiri in this regard.

In 2003, a revised Government Māori language Strategy was released as a vehicle to coordinate government efforts to support the Māori language. It set some long-term goals for language revitalisation, and it confirmed the roles of Government and how government agencies should give effect to those roles. It was a product of its times and, like all strategies, must be reviewed and modernised from time to time.

In recent years, there have been two reviews of the Māori language sector: Te Reo Mauriora (2011), produced by an independent panel I commissioned; and Ko Aotearoa Tēnei (2011), the Waitangi Tribunal report of the WAI 262 claim that included a chapter on the Māori language. In addition, the Office of the Auditor General published a performance audit of the 2003 Māori Language Strategy.

These reviews were critical of the Māori Language Strategy 2003. Kei te pai tērā. That is healthy because in their critiques, they set down some pathways for strengthening the contribution of the Government to supporting the revitalisation of the Māori language. They identified some common themes, including: the ongoing fragile state of the Māori language, and the need for ongoing government investment and support; the need to support iwi and Māori leadership of Māori language revitalisation; the need to strengthen Crown-iwi and Māori relationships in this sector; and the importance of support for whānau Māori, hapū and iwi language development.

After consideration of these findings, I sought Cabinet agreement to revise and modernise the Government Māori Language Strategy. In December 2013, Cabinet agreed that consultation about a suite of proposals for a new Māori language strategy be undertaken. From December 2013 to February 2014, seven regional consultation hui were held across New Zealand. Written submissions were also received from individuals and groups. Mr Speaker, I attended six of the seven consultation hui, and I am confident that interested New Zealanders had ample opportunity to have their say. All the oral and written submissions were assessed by Te Puni Kōkiri, and this feedback helped to inform final Cabinet decisions about a new Māori Language Strategy. In May of this year, Cabinet approved the Māori Language Strategy 2014. The legislation that we are considering today will give effect to some important elements of the Māori Language Strategy.

The Bill

The Māori Language (Te Reo Māori) Bill seeks to strengthen the recognition of the Māori language and the leadership roles of iwi and Māori.

The Bill seeks to strengthen the status of the Māori language by confirming that te reo Māori as a taonga of iwi and Māori, and that iwi and Māori are kaitiaki of their taonga. It seeks to strengthen the status of Māori as an official language by incorporating equivalent provisions to those contained in section 9 of the New Zealand Sign Language Act 2006 in order to promote the use of the Māori language by government agencies. It retains important provisions about the use of Māori in our legal system. The rights of citizens to Māori language education are set out in the Education Act 1989. As members will know, provisions for the use of te reo in this House are set out in Standing Orders. This means that all of the key elements of ‘official language status’ will be legislated for by this House.

To address the need for greater language revitalisation leadership roles for iwi and Māori, I propose the establishment of an independent statutory entity, to be known as Te Mātāwai. It will act on behalf of iwi and Māori and give practical effect to the kaitiakitanga of iwi and Māori over the Māori language.

Te Mātāwai will be responsible for providing direction and oversight of Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori and Te Māngai Pāho. It will undertake certain functions with regard to the Māori Television Service jointly with the Minister of Māori Affairs and the Minister of Finance. In short, the authority for these Māori language entities will be transferred from the Crown to iwi and Māori. However, I want to be clear that the Crown will not divest itself of its responsibilities and commitments for the Māori language. Rather, the Crown, through the Minister of Māori Affairs, will undertake its roles in conjunction with Te Mātāwai. As the Bill notes, this will give effect to the relationship of the Crown with iwi and Māori contemplated by the Treaty of Waitangi, in relation to the Māori language. In the spirit of prudent fiscal management, I would note that I envisage that Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori, Te Māngai Pāho, and Māori Television Service will continue to undertake their current functions within existing funding baselines.

Te Mātāwai will consist of twelve members, with seven members appointed by regional clusters of iwi, three members appointed by a Māori language stakeholder group and two members appointed by the Minister of Māori Affairs, on behalf of the Crown. When established, I anticipate that Te Mātāwai will require an operating budget, which will be sourced within Vote Māori Affairs at an appropriate time.

Mr Speaker, this bill amends the Māori Television Service Act 2003, in order to disestablish Te Pūtahi Paoho and to transfer its functions, duties, assets and liabilities to Te Mātāwai. This will ensure that iwi and Māori are represented by a single, coordinated entity. I would like to thank the members of Te Pūtahi Paoho for their contribution to the Māori Television Service over the last decade. I would also note that the members of Te Pūtahi Paoho that have retained an active interest in Māori language development will be included in Te Reo Tukutuku, the Māori language stakeholder group that will support the operations of Te Mātāwai.

This Bill also amends the Crown Entities Act 2004 by removing Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori and Te Māngai Pāho from Part 2 of Schedule 1 of that Act, as these two organisations will cease to be Crown Entities. They will both be continued in their current forms, and will retain their current functions. All board members and staff will be retained on their existing terms and conditions. However, the key change is that Te Taura Whiri and Te Māngai Pāho will be responsible to Te Mātāwai in the first instance. Through Te Mātāwai, they will be ultimately be responsible and accountable to iwi and Māori.

Next Stages

I am pleased to lead the first reading of this Bill, and to refer it to the Māori Affairs Committee. I am disappointed that I will not be here to see this Bill through its further Parliamentary stages. However, this kaupapa is bigger than me. Our language requires our ongoing support and focus, and we must make all efforts to support its revitalisation with some urgency and passion. For this reason, I ask that the motion be agreed that this bill be reported back to the House by 20 March 2014.

Mihi

I would like to again acknowledge the efforts of all those that speak and encourage others to learn the Māori language. E ōku rangatira, tēnei ka mihi ki a koutou, arā ki ā koutou mahi nunui hei painga mō te reo, mō ngā mokopuna, mō te iwi nui tonu. Tihei mauri ora.

Mr Speaker, I commend this bill to the house.


ends

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