It’s cool to kōrero te reo Māori Kūki Āirani!

Kia orana, Turou, ’āere mai ki te ‘epetoma o te reo Māori Kūki’ Āirani. Welcome to Cook Island Language Week.  The theme of the week is “Taku rama, taau toi: ora te Reo” – “My Torch, Your Adze: The Language Lives.”

In honour of the week, this post uses words of te reo Māori Kūki Āirani/ Cook Island Māori language.

It’s a good time to reflect on how our agencies respect and support te reo Māori Kūki Āirani and other Pacific languages; how we ensure culturally responsive services to Pacific people.  The two are linked. Reo (language) reflects respect for peu (culture) and respect for culture is directly relevant to service access and quality.

As we outline below, Pacific peoples and their culture have a special place in Aotearoa. This reflects in accreditation requirements and should accordingly reflect in organisational policy.

Respect for pacific

Pacific peoples comprise 8% of the population. The population includes a range of ethnicities, languages and communities, those born overseas and those born in Aotearoa who culturally identify with a pacific identity. Charities Services data shows there are 500 Pacific not-for-profit organisations in the country, with churches making up the majority of these (NZ Treasury, The New Zealand Pacific Economy, 13 November 2018) .

Samoan is the largest Pacific population in the country. The Cook Island population is the second-largest. Te reo Māori Kūki Āirani comes from the same language group spoken by Māori, Tahitians and Hawaiians.  There are more Cook Island Māori living in NZ than there are in the Cook Islands (See Ministry for Pacific Peoples, Cook Islands Language Factsheet).

We are a Pacific nation and have a special relationship with Pacific islands. The relationship has been chequered at times, eg the targetting of Pacific peoples in “dawn raids” – a “shameful passage” in New Zealand’s race relations”.

Both this history and the importance of our connection to other Pacific islands within the “sea of islands” (coined by famous Tongan author Epeli Hauʻofa) reflect in accreditation requirements for social, health and disability services.

Accreditation requirements

Both the Social Sector Accreditation Standards – Level 2 and NZS Health and Disability Standards require that services recognise and respect Pacific cultures, values and beliefs and that services are carried out in a culturally competent and culturally safe way.

This may be demonstrated in a number of ways, one of which should be through organisational policy.

The value of a good organisational policy

Good organisational policy and procedure that is user-friendly (for staff and volunteers) provides the opportunity to communicate some minimum requirements about culturally safe and culturally competent practices and to achieve consistency within your organisation about this.  It is a good way of reinforcing the importance of cultural safety and cultural competence to staff and volunteers.


How and what you provide in the policy and procedure will depend on factors such as:

  • whether you are a Pacific or mainstream service
  • your practice framework
  • your kaupapa
  • the services you provide (eg direct services, advocacy).

Organisations will have their own views on what they consider important enough and appropriate to enshrine in policy. If you’re not a Pacific agency, it will be helpful to consult with your Pacific staff, volunteers and clients and those you network with about what they think should be in your policy.

Some things to think about are:

  • a process for staff obtaining cultural advice and preparing for engagement with Pacific clients
  • promoting and using pacific languages to facilitate access to the service and express respect
  • staff training (eg awareness of own cultural framework and assumptions; importance of ngutu’are tangata (family), use of pacific models of health and wellbeing)
  • referral pathways  to provide people with the choice of accessing Pacific or mainstream agencies
  • collection and monitoring of data about ethnicity of people accessing the service and achievement of pacific aims
  • feedback and improvement strategies (eg a Pacific plan)


In te ‘epetoma o te reo Māori Kūki’ Āirani, it’s good to reflect on Pacific connections and how we’re going in delivering culturally safe services to Pacific peoples.

Through our policies, we signal what we regard as important to our organisation. The right of Pacific peoples to culturally respectful and responsive services is important enough for policy.

Contact us

Give us a ring if you need help with your policies and procedures. We love our mahi and talking to people about their diverse policy needs. Alternatively, take a look at our policy products to find out what we offer.


For more information about te reo Māori Kūki Āirani see the Ministry for Pacific People’s  fact sheet and   educational language resource.

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