Marches demonstrate increasing support for te reo

By Tema Hemi

The Auckland City Council says a series of marches to celebrate Māori language week could be the catalyst to having te reo Māori as a compulsory subject in schools.

The thousands hit the streets are a welcome sign that support for the language is increasing.

Māori Language Commission chief executive NgāhiwI Apanui says, "Our elders were smacked for speaking Māori at school, my parents and my older siblings as well. So recognition for the language must start with the government because they took it away, got rid of it in schools, so they apologised some years back and also recently but the language should be compulsory in schools, it's important for the country."

The marches also give people the opportunity to learn new words and increase language use in the community.

Ruia Aperahama says, "Make it compulsory, if that doesn't happen, it will be lost like the moa.  In  my view, the language won't survive with just Māori alone.  If you look at these green-eyed, fair-skinned, blonde people behind me, our children, a lot from the Pacific Islands, some from America, England, Africa, China, Japan, they're also here supporting the language."

Maori Development Minister Nanaia Mahuta says Māori will be a core subject in primary and intermediate schools by 2025.

And many non-Maori in this parade support having compulsory te reo Māori in schools. 

TVNZ's Breakfast Show host Jack Tame says, "I think for it to be compulsory in our schools, first of all we need to make sure we have enough kaiako to actually teach reo, at the moment resourcing is an issue.

"I also think the compulsion automatically makes some people rebel against it.  But, I cant see why we wouldn't want to have all of our kids from a young age learning as much reo as possible."

Labour's coalition partner New Zealand First doesn't support compulsory te reo in schools.