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Māori Language Bill: a Backward Step for Te Reo Māori

Māori Language Bill: a Backward Step for Te Reo Māori

The Auckland Languages Strategy Working Group has criticised the Māori Language (Te Reo Māori) Bill 2014 as ineffective in promoting Te Reo Māori to the extent that is required - and the group has made a submission on the Bill to propose a number of key changes.

The group, whose first goal is to support Te Reo Māori as the indigenous language of Aotearoa New Zealand, says that the Bill does not bolster this position, and could even be detrimental for Te Reo.

Susan Warren, coordinator of the Auckland Language Strategy Working Group and Chief Executive of COMET Auckland, says that the Bill doesn’t provide a clear plan of action of how the Bill will advance Te Reo Māori and be successful.

“A move to strengthen the language requires ongoing financial, legislative and constitutional support from Government. If there is no lasting commitment and
responsibility from the Government, then this Bill represents a backward step in the support and maintenance of Te Reo Māori for all New Zealanders.”

The submission criticises proposals to spend money on the establishment of an internal institutional structure called Te Matawai, rather than allocating money directly into school and community initiatives, which would be more effective.

“We are concerned that the Bill proposes additional structures that will siphon already scant funding from the areas of direct action to preserve, maintain, and promote Te Reo Māori,” says Warren.

The Group’s submission also states that the proposed representation of iwi and hapu on the new body is not at the appropriate level of sociolinguistic diversity, and so does not ensure that all the main dialects of Te Reo Māori are considered.

The group hopes that by 2040 Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland can enjoy the full economic, social and cultural benefits of all languages.

“Currently, less than 4% of the national population speaks Te Reo well enough to hold a conversation. In Auckland the numbers are lower, with only 2.35% able to hold a conversation in Te Reo, despite a higher representation of Māori in the city’s population.

“We are working towards a regional languages strategy for Tamaki Makaurau, after central government has repeatedly failed to prioritise New Zealand’s diversity of languages at a national level.

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