New Zealand's District Court staff will have to make announcements in Maori as well as English from next week.

The move has sparked both staunch support and opposition.

From Monday court registrars and attendants will open, adjourn and close sittings at the District, Family and Youth courts in both languages.

New Zealand Law Society president Jonathan Temm said it was surprising te reo Maori was only now being introduced, considering it had been an official language of New Zealand since 1987.


There was already a significant amount of te reo being used as everyday language in state agencies and other courts including the Maori Land Court, Waitangi Tribunal and Rangatahi Youth Court, he said.

"It's just a further step along the road of getting te reo the recognition Parliament clearly intended it to have when it made it one of the official languages. To the right thinking New Zealander that's just the way it is."

Mr Temm said there had been no objections from the legal profession.

Te Reo expert Dr Rangi Matamua credited the efforts of Te Ringa Mangu Nathan (Dun) Mihaka, who attempted to introduce the Maori language into court in 1979.

While appearing on a charge of fighting with police, the district court refused to hear the veteran Maori rights protester's address in Maori. Mr Mihaka, who was acting for himself, appealed to the High Court and then the Court of Appeal.

"Dun can be seen as someone who started this issue that we're seeing coming to fruition," Dr Matamua said.

But Sensible Sentencing Trust national spokesman Garth McVicar called the move a waste of time.

"A lot of the victims that we deal with, their issues have been frustrated by the clogging within the court system at present.


"So in my opinion it's pouring salt into the wound. What's the benefit of it, realistically?"

He said culture was already well catered for within the courts including Maori victim liaison officers.

"We're dealing with a court system that is overworked to the point of being dysfunctional and we're just putting another stumbling block in the way."

New Zealand First MP Winston Peters said: "If we've got any spare money to be tossing around at the courts, then let's spend on better counsel and on facilities to speed up the justice system of this country.

"With the greatest respect - it's not going to help the spread of the Maori language at all."



Turituri mo Tona Honore, te Kaiwhakawa, Taki tu - Silence for His/Her Honour the Judge. All stand.

Kua tuwhera te Kooti a-Rohe - The District Court is now open.


Turituri. Taki tu. Kua hiki te Kooti - Silence. All stand. The court is adjourned.

Kua haere ano te Kooti - The court is resumed.