Decline in fluent speakers could impact Māori Language Strategy

By Harata Brown

The Minister for Māori Development warns that if the number of Māori language users continues to decline he will be making key changes to the current Māori Language Strategy.

According to Te Te Ururoa Flavell, “If the statistics relating to language speakers are declining, I plan to look into the Māori Language Strategy for the next coming years as well as all operational language sectors.”

In 2014, Cabinet approved the Māori Language Strategy to increase the status of the language.  Despite the new Te Reo Māori Bill soon being introduced to Parliament.

Labour Party Spokesperson for Te Reo Māori, Peeni Henare says, “We will soon be reviewing and analysing aspects of the bill.  I think that's just a waste of time and money.”

Flavell says he is seeking services from the Māori Language Commision to measure the number of Māori speakers.  The Commission as well as The New Zealand Council for Education Research (NZCER) have commissioned a new Māori language survey, Te Ahu o Te Reo, which is currently underway. 

“In my capacity as a minister I don't want to be of no use if the statistics of language users continue to decline,” added Flavell.

While the Māori Language Commission is facing a $7mil cut in funding that will go to Te Mātāwai, Flavell insists he will still make key changes if need be.

‘We need to look at different avenues to strengthen language use.  That is the main objective.  That doesn't mean that funding is the only way possible to achieve that, a proposal could mean a new strategy that needs to be examined even further to achieve that objective,” said Flavell.

The bill's second reading is expected early next year, meanwhile the findings for Te Ahu o Te Reo aren't expected until the end of 2016.