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High Court Decision a Big Loss for Te Reo Māori

High Court Decision a Big Loss for Te Reo Māori

Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori (the Māori Language Commission) is disappointed with the recent High Court decision that counsel at the Waitangi Tribunal was not entitled to cross-examine in te reo Māori.

In December 2013, Liane Green, a Treaty claimant who had filed a claim on behalf of her hapū sought an order from the High Court in Wellington setting aside the Waitangi Tribunal’s ruling that counsel for the plaintiff was required to cross-examine two witnesses in English rather than in te reo Māori.

Erima Henare, Chair of Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori said, “The Commission appeared as an Intervener in the proceedings because we were concerned that if the Waitangi Tribunal’s decision stood, it would create a precedent where counsel and witnesses may be prevented or discouraged from using te reo Māori in legal proceedings on the grounds of cost or convenience”

“The Māori Language Act 1987 clearly recognises that any person is entitled to speak te reo Māori in any court or tribunal,” said Mr Henare.

The High Court has declined to set aside the direction of the Waitangi Tribunal. Justice MacKenzie found that counsel appearing in the Tribunal are entitled to speak te reo Māori, whether or not they are able to understand or communicate in English. However, the Judge found that the Tribunal has wide powers to regulate its procedure, and that considerable latitude is to be accorded to the Tribunal in such matters.

“The Judge considered that there is limited hearing time available in the Tribunal and said that “the coat must be cut to suit the cloth”, or, in other words, a choice must be made between exercising the right to speak te reo Māori and having the time to ask more questions,” said Mr Henare.

“The High Court decision is a big loss for te reo Māori. The decision sets a precedent that may lead to the erosion of the place of te reo Māori in our legal system. Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori will continue to work hard to support the revitalisation of te reo Māori”.


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