The battle for te reo Maori will not be over in our lifetimes, says one man on the 45th anniversary of the Maori Language Petition being presented to Parliament.

The petition was brought to Parliament in 1972, calling for te reo to be offered in schools.

Roger Steele said today it was "very, very moving" to see the historic moment commemorated by a small group of people, including some who took part in the first hikoi.

Roger Steele said te reo Maori is a
Roger Steele said te reo Maori is a "beautiful treasure". Photo/Melissa Nightingale

Green Party Maori development spokeswoman Marama Davidson greeted the group with a waiata when they arrived carrying banners, signs, and pictures of the original group.

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"The father of Marama Davidson, 45 years ago he stood on those very steps down there and did a wonderful whaikorero," Steele said.

He said it was particularly moving that 45 years later many of the same people were there "still fighting the battle".

"It's a battle that will not end in our lifetimes, but there's been so many victories on the way."

It was special to see Whaimutu Dewes speak to gathered MPs, Steele said.

From left: Toihau Kumar de Bruin, 7, Te Atawhai Kumar, Raiha Kumar de Bruin, 4, Shirley Simmonds, Raukawa Simmonds, 6, and Tamihana Simmonds, 8. Photo / Melissa Nightingale
From left: Toihau Kumar de Bruin, 7, Te Atawhai Kumar, Raiha Kumar de Bruin, 4, Shirley Simmonds, Raukawa Simmonds, 6, and Tamihana Simmonds, 8. Photo / Melissa Nightingale

He could not recall if he had attended the hikoi in 1972, as he was "a long-haired radical" and went to many demonstrations, but thought it was likely he had.

"Te reo Maori has been here for 1000 years and it's a treasure, and only 20 per cent of Maori speak it, three per cent of Pakeha speak it.

"The language is a beautiful treasure. Once you learn the language, you learn the culture as well."

He encouraged people to learn the language.

"He maha nga hua pai - there are many benefits, and it's absolutely worth it."

Te Atawhai Kumar said her children were taught te reo as their first language. Her youngest was trilingual, with Dutch as her second language and English her third.

A group of about 50-60 people marched to Parliament to commemorate the 45th anniversary of the Maori Language Petition being presented. Photo/Melissa Nightingale
A group of about 50-60 people marched to Parliament to commemorate the 45th anniversary of the Maori Language Petition being presented. Photo/Melissa Nightingale

She wanted every Kiwi student to have an opportunity to learn it, and learn more of Maori culture.

Today was one to celebrate "that our reo is alive" and a day of remembrance, she said.

Kumar wanted to see more mainstream and Maori support for the language.

Following the hikoi, Green Party leader James Shaw revealed the party's policy to make te reo compulsory in all schools by 2030, bringing in an additional 2500 teachers to make it a reality.

He said New Zealand was "hungry for it".

He said he did not speak the language himself as he went to school in a time where it was not taught.

"When I was about 9 I asked the teacher if we could learn te reo Maori and I was scoffed at," he said. Coupled with the fact he spent much of his adult life overseas, Shaw had never learned to speak it, but hoped to begin learning.

"It's really important to the future of our country."

Green MP Catherine Delahunty said New Zealand was ready for its children to get what others didn't.

"I think te reo's time has come," she said.

"We can't wait for there to be teachers, we have to create those teachers."

Shaw said the country was "hungry for it".

Marama Davidson said she was still learning and "still claiming back te reo".

"We, too, wish it had been in schools when we were in school."