All student teachers will have to prove they can pronounce Maori in order to graduate, under Labour's Maori policy launched yesterday.
The proposal to "ensure all teachers demonstrate competency in reo-a-waha enunciation and pronunciation" is among the policy proposals put forward by Prime Minster Helen Clark and Maori Affairs Minister Parekura Horomia in Hamilton.
Mr Horomia said it was important teachers set an example for the country's children, one in four of whom were Maori.
"Maori is an official language of this country but many people don't make an effort to pronounce Maori correctly. Teachers teach our kids a lot of things, from Shakespeare to poetry - what is the difference in teaching how to pronounce people's names and Maori correctly?"
Mr Horomia conceded that not all politicians provided a good model - "both sides of the House struggle with pronunciation".
He said it was inevitable the issue would rankle with some people.
National's Maori affairs spokesman, Gerry Brownlee, said he was staggered by Labour's plan.
"It is almost pathetic. This is politically correct tokenism. I hope the Prime Minister is taking some lessons.
I have heard her butcher and mangle pronunciation herself."
Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples supported moves to compel teachers to pronounce Maori accurately, and called for the Government to go further.
"It is a start but what about members of Parliament?" It was time all MPs showed respect for an official New Zealand language and for Maori by speaking te reo correctly.
Entertainer Sir Howard Morrison said he was not in favour of anything "enforced", but would be disappointed if the average New Zealander did not recognise te reo as an official language.
"Many, many a time I've found people who have mangled words and place names on TV and radio. Nothing's that difficult to learn - there's only five vowels for goodness sake," Sir Howard said.
Maori was made an official language 15 years ago. Some 160,000 people are estimated to understand or speak it to some extent.
Dr John Langley, dean of the education faculty at the University of Auckland, said he believed all children should be taught Maori in schools and this would be the first step towards achieving that.
"I'm sure it would put people off [becoming teachers] but progress is not made on the basis of public opinion."
Other proposals included supporting Maori organisational governance courses, more support for Maori tourism, and entrepreneurs. Labour will also review the Crown Forestry Rental Trust.
Mr Horomia also repeated an announcement of aiming for a Treaty of Waitangi claims deadline of 2020.By Jon Stokes Email Jon