At 68 years old Charlie Tawhiao has been around long enough to experience the resurgence of te reo.

"It was something that was dying out in the 1950s-60s. But now, for many, not having te reo is a real handicap," Tawhiao said.

"People of my generation started learning, but one of the obstacles you have to overcome is the feeling of 'I should know all this, but I don't'."

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The Ngāi te Rangi chairman said that trying to learn the native language as an adult Māori was particularly difficult - managing the feeling of failure that came when mistakes, which were a natural part of learning, happened.

Tawhiao is also on the board for Moana Radio which works to revitalise te reo by speaking it on the airwaves. Staff from the radio also attend language classes as part of their professional development.

"When I watch my mokopuna learning to speak te reo, to them it's like learning any other language. Whereas for an adult, you are acutely aware of errors.

"But (for me) I couldn't just sit and wait for reo to come to me. I had to go to it. That was quite uncomfortable and difficult exercise, but I just had to get over myself."

Tawhiao said learning Māori years ago was "something that was made much more difficult than it should have been".

"I don't get that sense now," he said.

"Young people speak te reo as a natural part of their language whereas I've struggled with it most of my life."

Tawhiao said there was hope among the younger generation who are taking the language on and "will be the ones to pull it forward over the next few years".