Four Northland iwi are leading a national call for a review into the use of te reo Māori in courts across the country.
Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Rēhia, Te Poari o Ngātiwai, Te Rūnanga a Iwi o Ngāpuhi and Te Reo Ngāti Hine filed a joint claim in the High Court in Auckland seeking a judicial review into how te reo Māori is used in legal proceedings.
The iwi believe te reo remains second string to English despite the Māori Language Act, passed in 2016, allowing judges, lawyers and witnesses to speak te reo Māori in the courts.
All four iwi are jointly seeking a review of the decisions made by the Minister of Justice, the Secretary of Justice and the Attorney General regarding te reo Māori in courts.
They claim the rules, procedures and processes implemented are inconsistent with the Māori Language Act and te Tiriti o Waitangi.
Their "ultimate goal" was to see the mana of te reo Māori appropriately recognised in all of New Zealand's courts, and to ensure its use was sufficiently supported and resourced.
Te Rūnanga a Iwi o Ngāpuhi representative Hone Sadler said in a statement, the rights of people to speak te reo Māori during legal proceedings was yet to be fully exercised.
They had waited for years for the nation's courts to implement legislation that recognises te reo Māori – first confirmed by the Government in 1987.
But with no real change, the iwi say.
"And that is why we continue to fight for our language, from the time we first took this issue to the courts."
"It has now come to us in this day to once again carry this issue and ensure the aspirations if those that began this fight are achieved, to ensure the mana of our reo is truly recognised.
Ngāti Wai spokesman Aperahama Edwards has experienced the difficulties speaking te reo Māori in the courts first-hand when the majority of people "do not understand the indigenous language of this land".
"It is unacceptable in 2021 that te reo Māori remains an inconsequential language in the Court of Law and its decision makers," he said.
"The first and dominant language in those settings is English and te reo Māori is treated as a very poor alternative option..."
Ngāti Rēhia spokesperson Kipa Munro didn't want to see the efforts of champions for the language be "in vain".
Munro credited the "foresight" and "courage" of Ngā Kaiwhakapūmau i te Reo, Huirangi Waikerepuru, Syd and Hana Jackson with successfully achieving te reo Māori's status as an official language to be in used in the courts.
"...it is only right to pay homage to what they achieved by continuing to ensure that what they fought for, and what is set out in the act, is then implemented with the court system."