Legislation to encourage a wider use of Maori language is scheduled for its final reading in Parliament today. Maori Development Minister Te Ururoa Flavell explains the bill in English and Maori.

In 1987, the then Minister of Maori Affairs, the Hon Koro Wetere, introduced the Maori Language Bill with a mihi in te reo. While you might think this would be the appropriate way to introduce the bill that sought to make Maori an official language of this country, after just five sentences he was interrupted with a point of order.

"I wonder whether you, as distinct from the rest of us, know what he is saying," one MP asked the Acting Speaker. "Do you have the translation before you, so that you can rule on the content of his speech?"

After several points of order, and the minister giving assurances to the House that a full translation would be available at the end of the "Maori part", he was allowed to continue his mihi.

Fast forward a few decades. In Parliament last month I moved the second reading of the Maori Language (Te Reo Maori) Bill entirely in te reo. Across 13 speeches, more than half of the two-hour debate was in te reo Maori.


The Assistant Speaker himself attempted some te reo Maori. There was respect for the language that was lacking 29 years ago.

The bill itself, when it becomes law, will be the first act in te reo Maori and English where the Maori version will prevail in the case of any conflict of meaning. That is hugely historic.

Since 1987, there have been many great strides in Maori language revitalisation.

• There are now about 460 kohanga reo throughout Aotearoa and more than 70 kura kaupapa and wharekura.

• Nearly 18,000 (2.3 per cent) school students are enrolled in Maori-medium education. A further 155,000 (20 per cent) learn Maori at school.

• Our presence in broadcasting has grown since the first Maori-owned, Maori language radio station went to air in 1985. Now there are 28 iwi radio stations and two Maori TV channels, one bilingual and one in te reo.

• In 2008, Google, the world's largest online search engine, launched the Mori-language interface. In 2009, Maori language was added to the google translator tool kits. Maori words are increasingly being used as part of New Zealand English, with about 746 words in The Dictionary of New Zealand English.

But despite all this and more, including the tireless work in communities throughout Aotearoa, the number of Maori language speakers is slowly declining.


The last census, in 2013, showed just over one in five Maori people could hold a conversation about everyday things in te reo - nearly 5 per cent fewer than in the 2006 census.

The United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) describes te reo Maori as vulnerable. We are not alone. In its Atlas of World Languages, Unesco estimates 43 per cent of the 6000 languages spoken around the world will be extinct by the end of the century.

Keeping te reo Maori off that extinct list is one of my greatest challenges as Minister for Maori Development, and the law as it stands will not achieve the level of change needed to save it.

The bill soon to be passed outlines a better way for the Crown, iwi and Maori to work together, providing a more appropriate balance of responsibility for language revitalisation. A new entity, Te Matawai, will develop the Maihi Maori language strategy and will lead language revitalisation at the community level. The Crown's responsibility is at the national level, and it and Te Matawai will work together towards a shared vision.

I know how hard it is to be a Maori-speaking whanau today. No matter how strong your commitment is at home, and with the schools you choose, our wider society is largely monolingual. The places our kids like to hang out - sports arenas, shopping malls and social media platforms - are all dominated by English.

My dream for Te Matawai is that by being closer to communities it will have a greater influence in ensuring te reo Maori is normalised across our society. It will encourage intergenerational conversation in te reo Mori and support whanau, hap and iwi to drive local language initiatives so te reo Maori extends beyond the marae and classrooms. My dream is to be able to walk into a bank or a shop and conduct my business in English or te reo Maori.

This piece is being published in English and te reo Maori. If you are reading in English, consider this: at the turn of next century it is my hope the story will be about the benefits of living in a multilingual nation and that your descendants will be reading it in te reo.

Maori translation

Maori Development Minister Te Ururoa Flavell. Photo / Stephen Parker
Maori Development Minister Te Ururoa Flavell. Photo / Stephen Parker

I te tau 1987, ka whakapuakina te Pire Reo Māori ki tētahi mihi i te reo Māori e te Minita Take Māori, e Hōnore Koro Wetere.

Tērā te whakaaro, koinā tonu te mahi tika hei whakapuaki i te Pire e whakamana ana i te reo Māori i raro i te ture o tēnei whenua, heoi, e rima noa ngā rerenga ka whakahuatia e ia, kātahi ka haukotia tana mihi e te whakaaranga ake o tētahi tono whakatikatika.

"Tēnei au e whakaaro ana, e mārama ana ki a koe āna kōrero, hāunga anō te nuinga o mātou" te pātai a tētahi o ngā Mema Pāremata ki te kaikōrero whakakapi. "Kei a koe te whakapākehātanga o āna kōrero ka āhei koe ki te whakatakoto whakatau e pā ana ki te kiko o te kōrero?"

Nō muri mai i te aranga ake o te huhua o ngā tono whakatikatika, me te whakamōhio atu a te Minita ka tukuna tētahi whakapākehātanga o āna kupu ki te Whare Pāremata i te mutunga o te "wāhanga Māori", kātahi ka āhei te Minita ki te whakatakoto i te roanga o tana mihi.

Me hoki mai anō ki tēnei wā, ki tērā marama (ko te marama o Poutūterangi), ki taku mōtini mō te pānuitanga tuarua o te Pire Reo Māori i roto i te Whare Pāremata, i roto katoa i te reo Māori. O ngā kauhau 13, i ngā hāora e rua o te wā tautohetohe, ko te reo Māori te reo o tētahi haurua, nui ake rānei, o ngā kōrero. Ka whakahuatia e te Kaikōrero Tuarua tonu ētahi kupu ruarua ki te reo Māori. Ka rangona te whakaaro nui ki te reo kāore i āta rangona i tērā 29 tau. Ko tēnei pire te whakatinanatanga o taua whakaaro nui. Hei te whakamanatanga, ki te ara mai tētahi take tautohetohe i raro i te ture hou, koia nei te ture reorua tuatahi e whakamana ana i te whakaputanga reo Māori ki runga ake i te whakaputanga reo Ingarihi. He take hitōria nui whakaharahara tēnei.

Mai i te tau 1987, he huhua tonu ngā kaupapa whakahirahira i raro i te whakarauoratanga o te reo Māori:

• E 460 ngā kōhanga reo huri noa i Aotearoa, waihoki, nui ake i te 70 ngā kura kaupapa Māori me ngā wharekura.

• Kua tata ki te 18,000 (arā, e 2.3 ōrau) te nui o ngā ākonga i roto i ngā momo akomanga rumaki reo Māori. E 155,000 anō (arā, e 20 ōrau) te nui o ngā ākonga e ako ana i te reo Māori i te kura.

• Mai i te whakapāohotanga o te reo irirangi Māori tuatahi i te tau 1985, kua nui ake te wāhi ki te reo Māori i te ao pāpāho.E 28 ngā reo irirangi Māori, e rua ngā hongere a Whakaata Māori - he reorua tētahi, he reo Māori anake tētahi.

• I te tau 2008, ka whakarewaina e Google, arā, e te pūkaha rapu ā-ipurangi nui o te ao, tā rātou atanga reo Māori. I te tau 2009, ka tāpirihia atu te reo Māori ki ngā rawa whakawhiti reo a Google. E rangona ana ngā kupu reo Māori i te whakahuatanga o te reo Ingarihi o Aotearoa. E 746 ngā kupu Māori i te papakupu o te reo Ingarihi o Aotearoa, arā, The Dictionary of New Zealand English.

Heoi, hāunga ēnei tū āhuatanga, me ngā whakapaunga werawera i ngā hapori huri noa i Aotearoa, kei te heke haere tonu te nui o ngā kaikōrero o te reo Māori.

E ai ki te tatauranga ā-motu o te tau 2013, i waenga i te iwi Māori, kotahi noa iho te tangata i te tokorima e āhei ana ki te kōrero mō ngā take o ia rangi i te reo Māori - he hekenga o te 5 ōrau mai i te tatauranga ā-motu o te tau 2006.

E ai ki te United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, arā, ko UNESCO, kei te pāhekeheke tonu te ora o te reo Māori. Ko te pōuri anō, kei te pēnei anō ētahi atu reo. Hei tā te Atlas of World Languages a UNESCO, o ngā reo e 6000 o te ao whānui, ka ngaro tētahi 43% o aua reo i mua i te huringa o tēnei rautau.

Ko te aukati i te rironga o te reo Māori ki te rārangi o ngā reo korehāhā, koia tētahi o ngā mānuka toimaha i taku tū hei Minita Whanaketanga Māori, otirā, e kore e ea tēnei āhuatanga i raro i te ture o nāianei.

Ko tā te pire hou, he whakatakoto i tētahi huarahi e mahi tahi ai te Karauna, ngā iwi me Ngāi Māori mō te whakarauoratanga mai o te reo, kia tika anō ai ngā kawenga a tēnā me tēnā. Ka whakatūria te rautaki reo Māori o Maihi Māori e te hinonga hou o Te Mātāwai. Māna e ārahi te whakarauoratanga o te reo Māori i roto i ngā hapori. Mā te Karauna ngā kaupapa reo ā-motu e kawe, otirā, ka mahi ngātahi te Karauna me Te Mātāwai ki te whakatutuki i ō tātou wawata.

E mārama ana ki a au ngā pēhitanga ki runga i ngā whānau kōrero Māori i ēnei rā. Ahakoa ka noho pūmau ki te reo i te kāinga me ngā kura, kotahi anake te reo o te nuinga o te pāpori whānui. Ko te reo Ingarihi te reo matua o ngā wāhi pai ki ā tātou tamariki, arā, ko ngā whare hākinakina, ko ngā toa hokohoko, ko ngā pae pāpāho pāpori anō.

Ko tōku wawata mō Te Mātāwai, mā te noho pātata ake ki ngā hapori, ka piki ake te kōrerotanga o te reo Māori huri noa i tō tātou pāpori whānui. Ka whakatairangahia te reo Māori i waenganui i ngā reanga o te whānau, ka tautokona ngā whānau, ngā hapū me ngā iwi ki te kōkiri i ngā kaupapa reo i ngā rohe kia rangona te reo i waho atu i ngā marae me ngā akomanga. Ko tōku wawata, kia āhei au ki te whakahaere i aku mahi i te toa, i te whare pūtea anō i te reo Māori, i te reo Ingarihi rānei.

E whakaputaina ana tēnei pūrongo i te reo Ingarihi me te reo Māori. Mehemea e pānui ana koe i tēnei kōrero i te reo Ingarihi, whakaarohia tēnei kōrero. Hei te huringa o te rautau, ko te tūmanako ia, ko te kaupapa kē o ēnei tū pūrongo, ko ngā painga o te noho ki tēnei whenua reo maha, otirā, e pānui ana ō uri i taua kōrero ki te reo Māori.