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Cross-Sector Group Calls for Te Reo Māori for All NZers

18th February 2014

Cross-Sector Group Calls for Te Reo Māori for All New Zealanders

An Auckland-based group working towards an Auckland Regional Languages Strategy is calling on the Minister of Māori Affairs and Te Taura Whiri (the Māori Language Commission), to include a separately-funded section in the new draft Te Reo Māori Language strategy, promoting Te Reo for all New Zealanders.

The call comes as consultation hui on the new Te Reo Māori strategy are held around New Zealand, following the release of the Government’s draft strategy in December. The cross-sector group includes members from many different language groups across Auckland.

The group is asking the Government to recognise that Te Reo Māori is a priority language for all New Zealanders, a taaonga of Aotearoa/New Zealand, and that if the language is to survive and flourish, it needs to be valued, and used across the wider community. While the draft strategy allows for non-Māori to learn the language, there is no proactive strategy or promotion of Te Reo for Pākehā and non-Māori. The group believes it should be an issue of citizenship to have access to and be able to use both English and Te Reo in our everyday lives. The group also wants to see a greater emphasis in the strategy on the role of the education system to support Te Reo Māori revitalisation for both Māori and non-Māori.

Language researcher John McCaffery states, “We believe that if all New Zealanders spoke English, Te Reo Māori and one other language of their choice, we would become a truly bilingual/bicultural nation, able to gain full benefit from our linguistic diversity. That will only be possible with the supporting backup and resourcing of the education system.”

COMET Auckland Chief Executive, Susan Warren, who coordinates the cross-sector group, explains: “The knock-on effects of having a multi-lingual population knowing Māori and their own languages would be significant, particularly for trade/export opportunities and tourism ventures. Ideally, we’d also see more recognition of the importance of the education sector - at all levels - as a support mechanism for language learning, maintenance and use. There is a wealth of research into the positive impact that speaking more than one language can have on cognitive learning abilities. Education is a key factor in lifting people out of poverty, improving race relations and increasing economic growth.”

The group supports the strategy’s recognition that control and ownership of Te Reo Māori revitalisation needs to sit with Māori. However, they seek assurances that the changeover and ongoing work of Te Reo Māori revitalisation will be adequately supported through both funding and policy.

Warren says, “It’s imperative that all hapu/iwi are supported and engaged in their efforts to revitalise the language. The last thing we want to see is ownership changes becoming a way for Government to back out of its existing legal constitutional obligations in supporting and funding Te Reo revitalisation in all areas of education, broadcasting, internet and radio.”

ENDS

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