TPK boss confident on te reo targets despite rising odds

By Yvonne Tahana

The report does not address 128,000 Maori who now call Australia home. Photo / Norrie Montgomery
The report does not address 128,000 Maori who now call Australia home. Photo / Norrie Montgomery

The leader of Maori Development Ministry Te Puni Kokiri says new official government targets, such as increasing the proportion of te reo speakers, is achievable even in the face of challenging conditions.

Michelle Hippolite is the new chief executive of TPK. Her ministry has just published its 2013-2016 statement of intent which has a hit list of targets focused on rights and Treaty interests, culture and aspirations.

The statement identifies a 51 per cent increase of Maori speakers using their own language by 2028 despite the numbers of fluent speakers falling - there were 25.2 per cent in 2001 compared with 23.7 per cent in 2006.

The goal was achievable, but the ministry would have to innovate and work more closely with non-government and community sectors, as well as existing Crown agencies such as the Maori Language Commission, Ms Hippolite said.

"We're still a few years away but it does take that long for language to have an impact where you have intergenerational transmission."

Broadly, the goals were about affecting the lives of Maori.

"We're not going to do everything, we don't have enough people and time, so we have to work with our colleagues, we have to collaborate in a meaningful way," she said.

Monitoring evolving Crown-Maori relationships which are shifting into being more iwi-specific because of Treaty deals is also a strong focus.

"We have a responsibility as a government agency to encourage and enable our colleagues across the public service ... to realise that it is not all just one homogenous group. It's evolving at a pace and we have to keep up."

The report does not address 128,000 Maori who now call Australia home. But Ms Hippolite said in coming years there would have to be work done on whether TPK had responsibilities to that group.

But the statement does indicate potential upheaval at TPK. Its "immediate operating environment carries some uncertainty".

- NZ Herald

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