Kia mauriora te reo Māori

Could you achieve 85 per cent of your staff and board valuing te reo Māori? Did you know we have a new Māori language strategy to achieve that as a nation? Already achieved that goal? Consider a language plan to support 85% of your staff and board to speak te reo Māori. 

We all have a role in the revitalisation of te reo Māori. We all have much to gain.

This was a key message in the Waitangi Tribunal’s 1986 Report on Te Reo Māori claim and more recently in its Ko Aotearoa Tenei report.

It’s a message that is now reflected in the principles of Te Ture mō Te Reo Māori 2016/ the Māori Language Act 2016. The principles of the Act include that te reo Māori:

  • has inherent mana and is enduring
  • is the foundation of Māori culture and identity
  • enhances the lives of iwi and Māori
  • is protected as a taonga under Article 2 of the Treaty
  • is important to our national identity.

The Government recently launched its new Māori language strategy under this Act. It reflects these new legislative principles and responds to long-time calls for the language to be protected as a taonga and revitalised.

So what does all of this mean for those of us working outside government? In this post I look at what we can do to support the revitalisation of the reo.

Maihi Karauna 

This is the government’s new strategy to revitalise the reo. It replaces the previous Māori language strategy, which was strongly criticised by the Waitangi Tribunal for being deficient and contributing to a decline in the use of te reo Māori (Ko Aotearoa Tenei, pp 165-7).

Maihi Karauna was developed as a partnership between the Crown and iwi and Māori (represented by Te Mātāwai).  It provides for:

  • Te Mātāwai to focus on homes, communities and the nurturing of tamariki Māori as first language speakers of te reo Māori. Whānau, hapū and iwi are a vital part. See here for  Te Mātāwai’s Maihi Māori/ Māori strategy
  • the Crown to create and foster societal conditions where te reo Māori is valued and in partnership with Te Mātāwai, develop policies and services that support language revitalisation.


Maihi Karauna sets some “audacious” goals. By 2040:

  • 85 per cent of kiwis (or more) will value te reo Māori as a key part of national identity
  • at least 1,000,000 New Zealanders will be confident talking about at least basic things in te reo Māori
  • 150, 000 or more Māori aged 15 and over will use te reo Māori at least as much as English.

Tracking progress

Unlike the previous Māori Language strategy, Maihi Karauna sets indicators for measuring progress towards these goals. The plan is to implement it progressively, starting with the current “establishment phase” (for more on implementation planning see here.)

What can we do? 

Maihi Karauna requires each of us to step up and nurture and promote te reo Māori as the indigenous language of Aotearoa.

To date, it has been largely Māori who have fought for the survival of the language. Broader support is required.  As people working with whānau, rangatahi and adults, social and health organisations can play a key part.

What about a language plan?

As part of implementing Maihi Karauna, public sector organisations will be expected to have language plans in place by 2021. A language plan could also be a good start for agencies and businesses wanting to give more priority and focus to the language. Think about how to engage with your staff, the expertise of Māori speakers on staff and obtain cultural advice about local tikanga and reo, for example, from mana whenua and local Māori/iwi services.

Review and update relevant policies and processes

It ‘s timely to review your policies on Te Tiriti o Waitangi and Diversity and inclusion. Consider if changes should be made to better support te reo in your organisation. For example, consider:

  • supporting and requiring staff and volunteers to pronounce kupu Māori correctly, particularly the names of people and places and frequently used phrases
  •  incentives for staff to commence or further their learning of te reo
  • how te reo me nga tikanga (cultural practices) are used in the organisation’s day-to-day practices
  • increasing access to cultural supervision and cultural advice
  • making the reo more visible in the organisation (eg signage, labels)
  • promoting reo initiatives such as Māori radio, tv and social media channels
  • recognise and remunerate Māori language speaking as a core competency for staff
  • support national promotions of te reo (eg Te Wiki o te reo Māori).

Any or all of these should be included in your policies and procedures.


So there’s a lot we can and should be doing. There’s no need to feel overwhelmed. Every small step counts.

In Ko Aotearoa Tenei (p166), the Waitangi Tribunal referred to an old Māori proverb :

“Mā te huruhuru, te manu ka rere” which means birds can fly only with feathers.

Let’s all be part of enabling te reo Māori to soar.

Kia Kaha Te Reo Māori!



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