Northland iwi: The Māori language must have mana in courts

By Aroha Mane

A collective of Northland iwi wants a judicial review on the use of te reo Māori in the court system.

Te Rūnanga o Ngāpuhi, Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Rēhia, Ngāti Wai Trust Board and Te Reo o Ngāti Hine Trust lodged a statement of claim in the Auckland High Court today, naming the Minister of Justice, the Secretary for Justice and the Attorney General as respondents.

The iwi maintain the Crown has failed to protect and promote te reo Māori as guaranteed by the Treaty of Waitangi and Māori Language Act 2016.

They’ve applied to the High Court to investigate their claim.

Ngāti Wai spokesman Aperahama Edwards says he’s supportive of the case.

“I’ve spoken Māori in many courts. I know how difficult it is to do so because the law and the courts turn a deaf ear to the indigenous language of this country,” he says.

“The Māori language must have mana in courts.”

To press this point, the iwi collective’s statement of claim — and media release — are entirely in te reo Māori.

Section 8 of the Māori Language Act sets practical limits on its use in proceedings, for example a person can’t insist on being answered in Māori.

The use of te reo Māori is governed by courts and Māori speakers are directed to comply with procedural rules such as informing parties of their intention to speak Māori.