Māori children deserve to speak their own language says Minister

By Jessica Tyson

Minister Kelvin Davis says his belief that tamariki deserve to speak their own language te reo Māori was why it was so important for Budget 2020 to support Te Kōhanga Reo.

The budget released yesterday included $200mil offered to Te Kōhanga Reo, a major boost since last year Te Kōhanga Reo was offered $32mil.

“When we became the government Kōhanga Reo had been languishing for 10 years without any support whatsoever from the previous Government and I sat down with the Kōhanga Reo Trust around a table in my office and said ‘I am totally committed to te reo Māori’,” says Davis.

Davis says it is wrong that Māori children are growing up without speaking te reo Māori. He says he grew up only knowing how to speak English and had to struggle to learn te reo Māori.

“They should have the right to speak their language.”

Davis says when he sat with members of the Kōhanga Reo Trust, they just wanted him to write a cheque “and basically hand it to them and walk away”.

“I said ‘No, our role as a government is to walk alongside you. If we sit down and work out exactly what your aspirations and your plans are for the future we can start walking alongside you to meet those aspirations of the Kōhanga Reo.”

Davis told the members that over time they might get more funding than what they were first asking for.

“What’s more important to me than the dollar sum is the relationship that we have created where the government and the Kōhanga Reo are walking side by side. They’re articulating their aspirations and we’re pulling the levers inside government to meet those aspirations and to me that is a real partnership based on Te Tiriti.”

Davis says the funding for Kōhanga Reo will lift teachers’ pay rates that have been anguishing for so many years.

“They deserve it. They’ve waited so long now. I’m just really happy that this government was able to deliver for them.”

In total $900mil was offered to Māori in the budget including a further $136mil to Whānau Ora for the recovery of whānau from COVID-19; the establishment of a $50mil Māori trades training fund; $40 million to help tackle the housing challenges Māori face through the Māori and Iwi Housing Initiative MAIHI programme; and $11mil for iwi and Māori nongovernment organisations.

“The $900mil will go a long way to lifting Māori across all sectors, says Davis.

 “Our government understands entirely the need to support Māori. We’re committed to all kaupapa Māori and this is just a reflection of how much we believe we need to invest in our people.”

Davis says there will be further waves of support for Māori in the future.