The issue of making te reo compulsory in New Zealand schools has drawn mixed support from Tauranga political and educational leaders.

The Greens, with support from some Labour MPs, yesterday announced a policy that would ensure the Maori language was a compulsory part of the school curriculum for Years 1 to 10, if they were successful in this year's election.

Otumoetai College principal Dave Randell said while the idea had merit, he did not think forcing the issue would work because the country was not ready for it.

"If I said to my kids at school 'you must learn waiata', you can imagine what kind of reaction I'd get."


Mr Randell said schools were already proactive and Maori words were being used more in conversation every day. Cultural awareness and understanding of te reo was already developing naturally.

"People are becoming more aware. I think it's evolving. Making it compulsory would get reaction from people who don't want it."

Merivale School principal Jan Tinetti said the idea was fantastic and she felt every child should have a second language.

"It's obvious in a country like New Zealand to learn te reo. It is the language of our country. But it's also good from the point of view for brain development. It gives children another way into language later on," she said.

"Where I do have concerns is where we would have a lot of work to allow teachers to do that. We would need to build the ability for teachers to be able to implement it."

Waiariki MP Te Ururoa Flavell said if te reo was compulsory in schools, the long-term benefit would be a thriving language and a country that was less racist and more embracing of others.

Mr Flavell said te reo was the language of the land, an official language since 1987, and its footprint was marked everywhere including Tauranga and Te Moana Nui a Toi (Bay of Plenty).

"There's no greater expression of our uniqueness as New Zealanders than te reo Maori and we should embrace our collective responsibility to ensure its survival, rather than fear its use."


Tauranga MP Simon Bridges said people had the option to send their children to Maori immersion schools but to make the language compulsory in all schools was "taking it a step too far".

"Te reo is very valuable and precious and I'm keen to do a bit of that myself but I think we've got a number of compulsory subjects that are there for good reason, that are core to helping people be successful in the modern day world. Adding to that and burdening the curriculum with this is unhelpful and makes it harder for the teachers, and more importantly students, to get ahead."

Tauranga-based New Zealand First List MP Clayton Mitchell said New Zealand did not make other languages compulsory in schools so should not make Maori so.

"It would be like saying we are going to have religious instruction mandatory in all schools."