IT IS NOT the hottest potato on the 2017 election menu, but it is likely to figure in debates at some point ...

Te reo - the Maori language and its survival.

While a number of phrases have passed into common usage in New Zealand, having been happily picked up by non-Maori, there are fears the language as a whole is under threat; that it might - bar those everyday phrases - become extinct like Latin, Gothic and Pictish.

More than lip service is needed. The survival of te reo is, ultimately, down to Maori, but the resourcing required is a matter for all.


The strategy has increasingly focused on engaging the next generation, with pre-schools and schools the targets.

The Green Party is making the bold call for universal te reo in schools, while the Maori Party is a little more circumspect, looking for a staged process for making the language a compulsory subject at all schools.

Neither is revealing how hard they would push their proposals should they be negotiating for a place in a coalition government after September 23.

While such moves would face objections in principle, the biggest obstacle will probably be the lack of teachers able to deliver a te reo curriculum.

Neither National nor Labour are looking at it as a compulsory school subject yet, perhaps sensing the idea of compulsion will inevitably attract significant push back.

New Zealand First's position seems slightly more ambivalent, bearing in mind Winston Peters' complaint in Parliament the other week during a speech in te reo by Te Ururoa Flavell that the Maori Party co-leader should speak English so as to be more widely understood.