Language Policy and Practice in New Zealand

Extracts from the Human Rights Commission’s Annual Race Relations Reports: 2004-2010


Language retention

Statistics New Zealand issued a report in November 2004 on language retention, Concerning Language, to inform public discussion on language retention issues in New Zealand and make statistical information on this topic more readily available to interested groups. The report examines the ability of 15 ethnic groups in New Zealand to speak their first languages, and investigates the relationship between language retention and selected factors (such as age, birthplace, years since arrival in New Zealand and religious affiliation), using data from the 2001 Census.  It notes that young people aged 0–24 years are less likely than their older counterparts to speak their ethnic ‘first language’, and that some ethnic groups are at greater risk of not maintaining their first languages than others. Among those, Niuean is one of the most at-risk languages. The Korean group has a relatively high proportion of people (81 percent) speaking a first language in New Zealand, with 78 percent of Koreans aged 0–24 years able to have a conversation in Korean about everyday things.

Acceptance of other languages

The use of languages other than English in the workplace led to a number of incidents during the year where employers sought to impose an “English only” policy.  Well publicised examples were a South Auckland medical laboratory which threatened employees with dismissal if they spoke other languages, and a Wellington rest home where a Samoan language occupational health and safety poster was removed by the manager. Both incidents were satisfactorily resolved after informal intervention by the Human Rights Commission.

Te Reo Māori

The Māori Language Commission has continued to promote te reo through a wide variety of programmes, boosted by a government cross-sector Māori Language Strategy to monitor and promote Māori language revitalisation initiated in 2003. A partnership with Te Puni Kokiri and the Human Rights Commission led to a highly successful Māori Language Week in July 2004 focused on encouraging all New Zealanders to “Give it a Go: Korero Māori”.  Hundreds of organisations participated, and there was a noticeable increase in support for te reo in the private sector.  The inaugural Māori Language Awards in September recognised the best contributions in Māori Language Week.  Television New Zealand won the supreme award and other awards included the Gisborne Herald and Pacific Island radio station Niu FM.

Pacific Languages

The 2001 census revealed that the proportion of Pacific peoples speaking their first language ranged from 62 percent for Samoans to 17 percent for Cook Islanders.  The percentage for Tongans was 54 percent, for Niueans and Fijians 26 percent, and Tokelauans 40 percent.  Since the majority of Cook Islanders, Niueans and Tokelauans live in New Zealand, this is a potentially alarming situation in terms of the preservation of these languages.  In the case of Niue, the number of Niueans living outside of Niue is 93 percent of the total population.  At the celebration of Niue’s thirtieth anniversary as an independent nation in free association with New Zealand in 2004, the New Zealand Prime Minister made a commitment to assist Niue in maintaining its distinct culture and language. The Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs is now developing a pilot programme for preserving the Niuean language in New Zealand, which is intended to provide a platform for a larger programme which will seek to preserve the Niue, Tokelau and Cook Island Māori languages among New Zealand communities.  A national Taoga Niue Committee has been established, and regional committees are planned for Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

Niu FM, a pilot national Pacific radio network funded via the Ministry for Culture and Heritage and with reserved radio frequencies, approached the end of its third year of operation.  Capital Samoan Radio in Wellington and 531pi, a pan-Pacific radio station in the greater Auckland region, were funded by New Zealand on Air.

Language Line

The Office of Ethnic Affairs launched Language Line, a pilot telephone interpreting service for six participating government agencies, in 2003.  In 2004, the Government decided that the service should become permanent.  The number of languages available was increased to 37, and operating hours were extended to 9am – 6 pm Monday to Friday. The service has also been extended to include further government agencies as well as the offices of all Members of Parliament.

Language policy

One of the issues raised in consultation on the New Zealand Action Plan for Human Rights in 2004 was the need for a national languages policy to address the wide range of issues relating to language in New Zealand.  Responsibility for language learning and retention and language services is scattered over a wide range of government agencies, including the Māori Language Commission and Te Puni Kokiri, the Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs, the Office of Ethnic Affairs, the Ministry of Education, the Tertiary Education Commission, the Ministry for Culture and Heritage, the Ministry of Social Development and the Immigration Service.  The issue of a national languages policy covering the full range of language issues was raised over a decade ago in a Ministry of Education report, Aoteareo, but developments since that time, while positive, have been ad hoc and uncoordinated.


Māori Language Information Programme: Korero Māori

In the 2004 budget, the government provided an additional $1 million per annum for four years for a Māori Language Information Programme. The broad objective of the programme is to support the regeneration of the Māori language through the provision of information. The proposed outcomes are two-fold in that by learning about the various issues affecting the language, more Māori will use it and all New Zealanders will value the Māori language.

The programme supports:

  • increased awareness of Māori language issues, and enhanced positive attitudes towards te reo Māori in society
  • opportunities for Māori language speakers to use their Māori language skills in established and new domains and
  • an increased desire in various communities to learn, use and support the Māori language.

In its first year, the programme supported a number of the initiatives. Some are described below.

Te Reo Māori in the supermarket

In February one of New Zealand’s largest supermarket chains, Progressive Enterprises (including Woolworths, Foodtown and Countdown supermarkets), promoted the use of reo Māori as part of its annual Celebrate New Zealand campaign, in conjunction with Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori, the Māori Language Commission. This included in-store advertisements, information in household advertising brochures and the free distribution at checkouts of 300,000 Māori language booklets.

Te Reo Māori in the community

Māori Language Week took place from July 25-31, and was widely supported in the community as an opportunity to celebrate te reo Māori. Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori, in partnership with the Human Rights Commission and Te Puni Kokiri, provided ideas and resources for schools, workplaces, councils, media and community organisations to undertake activities in support of the week.

Resources included a further booklet in the Give it a Go: Korero Māori series, focusing on phrases to do with food. Māori Language Week Awards for the best programmes and activities in a range of sectors were presented at a special ceremony on Māori Language Day on September 14. The winner of the supreme award was TV3, for including a daily news item in te reo Māori on their main news bulletin for the duration of the week.

Te Taura Whiri also launched a new interactive website,, for people wishing to learn te reo on line, along with a Māori Language Club for language speakers at different levels. On Children’s Day in October, Te Taura Whiri launched a major new resource for language learning in the home, Raising Tamariki With Reo Māori.

Te Reo Māori in the mainstream

The Ministry of Education is implementing a four year strategy for the teaching and learning of Māori language in mainstream primary and secondary schools. Current initiatives to be completed by the beginning of 2007 include the development of:

  • a draft curriculum for the teaching and learning of Māori in mainstream schools
  • a multi-media resource package for Year 7 and 8 students learning Māori
  • on-line materials to support the implementation of the curriculum.

College of Education advisers have been appointed specifically to support mainstream teachers with their Māori language programmes. In addition, the Ministry is undertaking professional development pilots around Māori language, second language teaching/learning, and curriculum familiarisation. The final curriculum for the teaching and learning of Māori in mainstream schools will be in place in 2008.

Te Reo Māori on the computer

In November Microsoft New Zealand launched a software package enabling the download of a Māori language interface with the Microsoft Windows and Office systems. The language interface packs were developed as part of the global Microsoft Linguistic Partnership Project with the Māori Language Commission and Waikato University to meet the needs of the growing number of people learning and using Māori. Microsoft New Zealand Managing Director, Ross Peat, said that for him the launch “was a really proud moment as a New Zealander.” The software is available for free download from Microsoft’s website.

Te Reo Māori on air

Māori language broadcasting is funded primarily through Te Māngai Pāho, a Crown entity specifically established to make funding available to the national network of Māori radio stations and to produce Māori language television programmes, music CDs and videos. In 2004-05 Te Mangai Paho provided nearly $45 million for television programmes (both Māori and mainstream television), and approximately $10 million for radio programmes. In addition, the Government provided direct funding of $11.53 million for the operating and capital costs of Māori Television for 2004-05.

Māori Television celebrated its first anniversary in March and presented its first full year’s annual report as a broadcaster to Parliament in November. The report noted that 71 percent of its programmes were in te reo Māori, and that the number of viewers had increased from a monthly cumulative average of 327,800 in July 2004 to a peak of 426,300 in April 2005. Māori Television was financially successful, achieving a surplus of $3.229 million in its first year of operation and repaying its loans ahead of schedule.

The Government provided an additional $3.4 million over two years in the 2005 budget to assist the 21 iwi radio stations to upgrade their equipment. Te Mangai Paho is working on a new funding framework which will be centred on Māori language and learners.

Pacific Radio

A three year pilot for the Pacific radio network Niu FM ended and the Government announced ongoing funding of $12 million over the next four years as part of the 2005 Budget. The funding represents an increase of $1.26 million a year on funding allocated to pilot the service from 2002/03 to 2004/05. The network was accessible to 85 percent of the Pacific population from Whangarei to Invercargill. As part of its language promotion in 2005 the network held language weeks for six Pacific languages in the lead-up to Māori Language Week in July.

Two other dedicated Pacific community radio stations, Si’ufofoga ole Laumua Samoa Capital Radio in Wellington and 531pi in the greater Auckland region, continued to be funded through New Zealand on Air.

Access Radio

New Zealand on Air contributes funding to 11 Access Radio Stations, which serve communities of 50,000-plus population in Auckland, Hamilton, Hawke’s Bay, Manawatu, Wairarapa, Kapiti Coast/Horowhenua, Wellington, Nelson/Tasman Bays, Christchurch, Dunedin and Invercargill. Access Radio, which is largely run by volunteers, provides many local ethnic communities with weekly programming in their own languages.

Following the adoption of a Public Broadcasting Programme of Action in February, the Government announced an increase of $222,000 per annum in access radio funding in the 2005 budget, increasing the annual total for community broadcasting (in addition to Pacific radio) to a little over $2 million per annum. The new funding enabled the operational funding cap for individual stations to be increased to $220,000 and also enables NZ On Air to assist with the cost of transition from AM to FM, as well as with projects designed to attract new programmes, providing more diversity, and to fund one off costs such as replacement equipment.

Mind Your Language Pacific Pilot Project

In the 2001 census it was identified that only 12 percent of New Zealand-born Niueans over 5 years old could hold an everyday conversation in their mother tongue. At the same time, the Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs Free II C (Freedom to Choose) consultations with Pacific youth found that Pacific youth saw the language of their parents and grandparents as being very important to their sense of identity.

These findings were the catalysts for the Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs to initiate the Mind Your Language Project to help build the critical mass of Pacific peoples able to hold an every day conversation in their mother tongue.

As part of the Mind Your Language Project, the Ministry, in conjunction with a Niuean provider, Niu Development Inc., ran a pilot programme in Auckland to develop a language resource for the Niuean community. The language resource, Vagahau Niue, consists of three booklets and an audio CD, and was launched at the Hulaaga Vagahau Niue Language National Conference in Porirua in October. The conference was a celebration of Niuean language initiatives.

The Niuean, Cook Island Māori and Tokelauan languages have been identified as the three Pacific languages most at risk of being lost. Once the results of the pilot have been completed, it is anticipated that similar resources will be developed for both the Cook Island Māori and Tokelauan languages.

The Vagahau Niue language resource can be downloaded free from the Ministry’s website at .

Language services for migrants and refugees

The New Zealand Settlement Strategy has as its second goal that migrants, refugees and their families become confident using English in a New Zealand setting, or are able to access appropriate language support. The Settlement Division of the Department of Labour facilitates the implementation of the strategy and co-ordinates initiatives to ensure that there are no gaps in services. As an example, they collaborated with the Ministry of Education and the Tertiary Education Commission to produce one key brochure on access to language support for refugees and migrants (replacing the previous three brochures, one from each agency). The Department also continued to fund the multi-lingual information service provided by the Citizens Advice Bureau in the Auckland region. In 2004/05, the service assisted 12,508 clients in 15 key languages.

Language Line

Language Line is a Government-funded telephone interpreting service available in 37 languages. When a client phones a participating government agency he or she can request that their conversation with the agency is conducted through Language Line, allowing the agency and client to communicate efficiently. During 2005 there were between 480 and 500 calls each week to Language Line.

There are 18 agencies currently using the Language Line service, with a number of other agencies indicating their interest in using the service. The Government provided additional funding of $551,000 over the 2005/06 financial year to assist with expansion of the service to cover additional government agencies and to allow the languages offered to be reviewed based on usage and need. Language Line is managed by the Office of Ethnic Affairs, which offers a distance education package for the agencies using Language Line, a DVD for communities to inform them about the service, and the development of NZQA accredited courses in working with telephone interpreters.

Language policy

The need for a national languages policy, which was identified as a priority issue in The New Zealand Action Plan for Human Rights: Mana kit e Tangata in March, was emphasised at the New Zealand Diversity Forum in August in a keynote address by Professor Stephen May of Waikato University. In his review of developments since the first policy proposal, Aoteareo, was published in 1993, he argued that the time was right for the matter to be revived (paper available at

The need to address issues of language loss and language learning as both a social and an economic priority in New Zealand was also a theme of Languages of New Zealand, edited by Allan Bell, Ray Harlow and Donna Starks, published in late 2005. A national language policy network was established as part of the New Zealand Diversity Action Programme.

NZ Sign Language

The New Zealand Sign Language Bill was introduced into Parliament in April and supported by all political parties. The Bill’s purposes are to promote and maintain the use of NZSL by declaring it to be an official language of New Zealand; to provide the right to use NZSL in legal proceedings and to establish the principles to guide government departments in the promotion and use of NZSL (including that government services and information should be made accessible to the Deaf community). The Bill was reported back from the Justice and Electoral Select Committee in July and is expected to be passed by mid-2006.


Language in the 2006 Census

The 2006 census figures show that after English, Māori is the most commonly spoken language in New Zealand, followed bySamoan, French, Hindi, Yue and Northern Chinese. The numbers of speakers are:

English                                      3,673,626

Māori                                         157,110

Samoan                                    85,428

French                                       53,757

Hindi                                           44,589

Yue                                            44,154

Northern Chinese                    41,391

Other                                         509,358

The number of Māori who speak Te Reo increased from 130,485 in 2001 to 131,613 in 2006. However as a percentage the figure has fallen from 25.2% in 2001 to 23.7% in 2006. Census data also show that the majority of New Zealanders continue to be monolingual, with 76.6% speaking only one language. Slightly less Māori speak only one language at 72%.

Languages in the New Zealand Curriculum

The draft new schools curriculum released in July proposed that learning languages be a separate learning area, and that students learn at least one language other than English. This was in response to a recommendation in the Curriculum Stocktake Report which highlighted international criticism about the place of second language learning within the New Zealand curriculum. The Office of Ethnic Affairs convened meetings of ethnic communities with Ministry of Education staff in Auckland and Wellington to provide feedback on the new curriculum provisions. 

Interpreting and Translation Services

A project to look at the feasibility of establishing a national approach to interpreting and translation services in New Zealand was initiated by the Office of the Health and Disability Commissioner, the Office of Disability Issues and the Office of Ethnic Affairs.  The project aims to address inequities arising from communication barriers faced by people living in New Zealand who speak limited or no English, wish to speak reo Māori, use New Zealand Sign Language, are blind, or who are both deaf and blind. The desired outcome of the project is to identify an appropriate national approach for the provision of interpreting and translation services that will be inclusive and equitable in addressing communication barriers.

Language Line

Language Line is a Government-funded telephone interpreting service available in 39 languages.  In 2006, French and Portuguese were added to the pre-existing 37 languages available, in response to a growing need by refugees from central Africa.  When a client phones a participating government agency they can request that their conversation with the agency be conducted through Language Line.  Since 2003, the top ten languages required by service users have been: Chinese (Mandarin), Korean,Samoan, Cantonese, Tongan, Hindi, Arabic, Spanish, Farsi, and Japanese. During 2006 the service received between 500 and 650 calls per week.

Currently 26 agencies use Language Line. The government provided an additional $551,000 for the 2005-06 year to assist with the expansion of the service to include more government agencies and to allow the languages offered to be reviewed on the basis of usage and need.  Language Line is managed by the Office of Ethnic Affairs, which offers a distance education package for participating agencies, a DVD for communities to inform them about the service, and NZQA accredited courses on working with telephone interpreters.

Multilingual Information Service

Citizens Advice Bureaux in Auckland provide a Multilingual Information Service with funding from the Department of Labour.  In 2004-05, the service assisted 12,508 clients in 15 key languages in the Auckland region. In 2006 the number of languages available increased to 26, and the service became available nationally through Citizens Advice Bureaux.

Survey on Attitudes to reo Māori

A survey of attitudes to reo Māori conducted by Te Puni Kokiri showed more positive public attitudes to reo Māori in 2006 than in previous surveys in 2000 and 2003. There was a marked increase in the number of both Māori and non-Māori who supported the use of reo Māori in public places or at work. There was strong support for government involvement in Māori language revitalisation among both Māori and non-Māori.  A periodic survey on the usage of reo Māori was also conducted by Te Puni Kōkiri, and the results will be released in 2007.

Māori Language Week

 Māori Language Week was held from 26-30 July 2006 with a sports theme. For the third year Te Taura Whiri i Te Reo Māori, the Human Rights Commission and Te Puni Kōkiri produced a Kōrero Māori booklet in keeping with the theme. The Māori Language Week Awards were held in Wellington on 14 September.  The Raukawa Māori Trust Board and the South Waikato District Council were the Supreme Winners for their initiative in correcting Māori street name signs in Tokoroa and placing bilingual signage on key buildings. There was significant growth in the number of daily newspapers that participated in the awards.

Māori in the Mainstream

The Ministry of Education launched a promotional campaign for the introduction of a curriculum for Māori language in mainstream schools. The draft curriculum was revised after feedback from the trials in 2005. Copies of Te Reo Māori in the New Zealand Curriculum will be available electronically early in 2007 for teachers to incorporate into planning for the year, and by April 2007 printed copies will be distributed to all schools for use and consultation. Feedback will then be collated and analysed, and further amendments made to the curriculum. The final version is expected to be distributed to all schools by mid 2008.

 Reo Māori on air

Māori language broadcasting funder Te Māngai Pāho provided over $40 million in 2005-06 for television programmes on both Māori and mainstream television, and over $11 million for radio programmes. It also funded the first stage of a two-year $3.4 million upgrade of iwi radio stations. The 2006 annual report of Māori Television noted that 71% of its programmes were in reo Māori and that audience growth over the year was estimated at 20%. The station continued to be financially successful, reporting a surplus of $1.5 million in 2005-06.

Road safety signage

When Māori immersion school Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o te Rotoiti purchased a new bus for its students, it placed a KURA sign on the back, unaware that this was against the school bus signage rules. When Land Transport NZ said the sign had to be in English, the principal of the kura wanted to know why he could not use a name officially recognised by the Ministry of Education in a language that was an official language of New Zealand.  After some media publicity, it was agreed at a meeting with Land Transport New Zealand that a revised sign, including the international symbol for school children, was acceptable,  thus paving the way for the recognition of kura (and perhaps other Māori words) in New Zealand’s road safety signage, which Land Transport New Zealand undertook to investigate further.

Pacific languages

The Mind Your Language project was launched by the Ministry of Pacific Affairs in 2005 following concern that only 12% of New Zealand-born Niueans over five years old could hold a conversation in their mother-tongue. Vagahau Niue and some other Pacific languages are at risk of falling into disuse in New Zealand. The first phase of the project developed three booklets and an audio CD to teach the fundamentals of Vagahau Niue.

In the 2006/07 budget, the Ministry received $600,000 to continue the project and to develop similar resources for Cook Island Māori and Tokelauan.

Community Languages

Following on from the discussion around the need for a national language policy at the NZ Diversity Forum in 2005, the Office of Ethnic Affairs hosted a Community Languages forum at the 2006 Diversity Forum in Wellington in August. The forum was successful in raising awareness of the issue of language maintenance, and facilitated dialogue between ethnic communities, NGOs and government agencies.  The Multicultural Language and Support Service in Wellington and the Office of Ethnic Affairs established mother tongue language classes under the umbrella of the Wellington Regional Action Plan for Refugee Health and Well-being launched in June. The  discussion  around  heritage  (or community or mother tongue) language maintenance  was further developed at the  Community  Languages  and  ESOL  Conference held  in  Napier in September.  Stefan Romaniw, Executive Director of Community Languages Australia, was one of the keynote speakers and shared the way Australia has approached the issue.

NZ Sign Language

New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL) became New Zealand’s third official language, joining English and Māori, when Parliament passed the New Zealand Sign Language Act in April. The purposes of the Act are to promote and maintain the use of NZSL by establishing it as an official language of New Zealand; to provide the right to use NZSL in legal proceedings and to establish the principles to guide government departments in the promotion and use of NZSL (including that government services and information should be made accessible to the Deaf community). The Office for Disability Issues will oversee the implementation of the Act. In the 2006 census, over 24,000 people said they could use sign language.  The story of NZSL and the 20-year-campaign to get it recognised was the subject of a full feature length documentary, Sign of the Times, produced by Victoria Manning and Paul Wolffram.  The first tri-lingual Māori, English and NZSL television programme, a gardening series called Kiwi Maara, screened on Māori Television.


National Language Policy

The New Zealand Action Plan for Human Rights in 2005 called for the development of a national languages policy. The proposal was discussed at a language policy workshop at the 2005 New Zealand Diversity Forum and a national language policy network, Te Waka Reo, was established by the Human Rights Commission. Progress was reviewed at the 2007 New Zealand Diversity Forum in August. It was suggested that a brief language policy statement should be developed as a framework for the development and coordination of strategies for specific languages and sectors. A draft Statement was accordingly developed and presented by the Race Relations Commissioner and a panel of language policy experts at the second International Conference on Language Education and Diversity (LED 2007) in Hamilton in November. The policy will be promoted as a framework for specific policy development in 2008.

Languages in Aotearoa: Statement on Language Policy

This Statement on Language Policy is intended to promote discussion on language policy and to provide a simple framework for greater government and community action to protect and promote language diversity in New Zealand. It is a project of Te Waka Reo, the Language Policy Network of the New Zealand Diversity Action Programme, facilitated by the Race Relations Commissioner and the Human Rights Commission.


New Zealand is a diverse society in a globalised international community. It has an indigenous language, te reo Māori, and a bicultural Māori and Anglo-Celtic foundation. It is located in the Asia Pacific region and many people from the Pacific and Asia have settled here. Languages are an important national resource in terms of our cultural identities, cultural diversity and international connectedness. They are vitally important for individuals and communities, bringing educational, social, cultural and economic benefits. They contribute to all three national priorities of national identity, economic transformation and families young and old.

English is the most widely used language in New Zealand, and the ability to communicate in English is important for all New Zealanders. Te reo Māori and New Zealand Sign Language are recognised by law as official languages. The number of speakers of te reo Māori is now increasing, but much remains to be done to secure its future as a living language.

A majority of New Zealanders currently speak only one language. There are however significant communities who have a heritage language other than English. Māori, Pacific and Asian communities alone make up nearly a third of the population. The most common community languages other than English are te reo Māori, Chinese languages, Samoan, and Hindi.

Human Rights and Responsibilities

The right to learn and use one’s own language is an internationally recognised human right. Human rights treaties and declarations specifically refer to rights and responsibilities in relation to indigenous languages, minority languages, learning and using one’s mother tongue, the value of learning international languages, and access to interpretation and translation services. The New Zealand Bill of Rights Act provides that ‘a person who belongs to an ethnic, religious, or linguistic minority in New Zealand shall not be denied the right, in community with other members of that minority, to enjoy the culture, to profess and practise the religion, or to use the language, of that minority’.

New Zealand has a particular responsibility under the Treaty of Waitangi and international law to protect and promote te reo Māori as the indigenous language of New Zealand. It also has a special responsibility to protect and promote other languages that are indigenous to the New Zealand realm:  Vagahau Niue, Gagana Tokelau, Cook Island Māori, and New Zealand Sign Language. It has a regional responsibility, as a Pacific nation, to promote and protect other Pacific languages, particularly where significant proportions of their communities live in New Zealand.

Economic Development

A significant and growing proportion of New Zealand’s trade is with Asia, and learning the languages of our key trading partners is an economic imperative.


All New Zealanders should have the opportunity and support to achieve oral competence and literacy in English through school, adult literacy programmes, and ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) programmes.

Te Reo Māori

All New Zealanders should have the opportunity and support to learn te reo Māori and use it in the home, in education and in the community. The importance of maintaining te reo Māori as a unique indigenous living New Zealand language should be publicly promoted as part of our national heritage and identity.

New Zealand Sign Language

All Deaf people should have the opportunity and support to learn and use New Zealand Sign Language in the home, in education, and in the community, including having access to interpreters. Other New Zealanders should also have the opportunity and support to learn and use NZSL.

Pacific Languages

All Cook Island Māori, Niuean and Tokelauan people living in New Zealand should have the opportunity and support to learn and use their heritage language. Other Pacific peoples in New Zealand should have the opportunity and support to learn and use their languages through public and community provision.

Community and Heritage Languages

People whose community or heritage language is other than English, Māori or Pacific should have the opportunity and support to learn and use these languages through public and community provision.

International Languages

New Zealanders should be encouraged and given opportunities and support to learn international languages, including those of New Zealand’s key trading partners.


Within a general languages policy framework specific strategies are needed for both priority language groups and priority sectors. All such strategies should recognise that:

New Zealand is a country with a small population and limited resources to support language diversity

Choices have to be made about the relative priority of providing for the various languages, sectors and objectives based on the degree of endangerment,  human rights, government responsibilities, economic benefits and the population base

Strategies and programmes for these languages and sectors must be coordinated to make the most effective use of available resources

Language Strategies

There should be specific national strategies for English literacy and ESOL, te reo Māori, New Zealand Sign Language, Pacific languages, community and heritage languages and international languages. Such strategies should address the dual goals of language maintenance and development within minority communities, and wider public acceptance of language diversity.

 Sector Strategies

There should be sector strategies for languages in the home, the community, education (early childhood centres, schools, tertiary), public services (including translation and interpretation services), business and broadcasting.


Priorities in the implementation of a national languages policy are to:

Establish an appropriate coordinating and monitoring mechanism for language policy, and identify lead organisations for specific language and sector strategies

Develop and maintain strategies for the identified languages and sectors

Promote cooperation and sharing between agencies and communities in the development of strategies, resources and services

Promote positive public attitudes to language diversity and increase the number of people learning languages

Train and support more teachers of languages

Develop resources to support language learning and use

Current Strategies and Initiatives

There are existing strategies for English literacy, ESOL and te reo Māori. The te reo Māori Strategy is currently being updated. There are no comprehensive strategies for any of the other languages or sectors identified, but there have been a variety of initiatives within these areas. New Zealand Sign Language was declared an official language in 2006. The new schools curriculum adopted in 2007 includes languages as a learning area for all students, and a languages in schooling strategy is under development. The Ministry of Education has recently completed curricula for a number of Pacific languages and the Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs has piloted a Mind Your Language programme for the Niuean, Tokelauan and Cook Island communities. There are a variety of supports for Māori, Pacific and other community language broadcasting.

Key government agencies with responsibility for aspects of language policy include the Ministry of Education, the Tertiary Education Commission, Te Puni Kokiri, the Māori Language Commission, the Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs, the Office of Ethnic Affairs, the Ministry for Culture and Heritage, the Ministry of Social Development, and the Department of Labour. The Human Rights Commission facilitates a language policy network, Te Waka Reo.

New Curriculum

The New Zealand Curriculum was launched in November. It acknowledges te reo Māori and New Zealand Sign Language as official languages of New Zealand, and English as a de facto official language by virtue of its widespread use. The Curriculum states that all three official languages may be studied as first or additional languages and may also be the medium of instruction across all learning areas.

A significant feature of the new Curriculum is the inclusion of Learning Languages as one of the eight learning areas in the Curriculum, along with English, the arts, health and physical education, mathematics and statistics, science, social sciences and technology. Learning Languages has been added to the Curriculum to encourage students to participate more actively in New Zealand’s diverse, multicultural society and in the global community.

New Zealand Sign Language

New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL) in the New Zealand Curriculum was launched in March. The NZSL Curriculum provides the basis for NZSL programmes in early childhood settings and in primary and secondary schools, and gives students the opportunity to learn NZSL from the earliest practicable age.

Te Reo Māori

A draft of Te Reo Māori in the New Zealand Curriculum was launched in March. The Curriculum is designed to assist and support teachers in mainstream primary and secondary schools to plan and implement effective te reo Māori programmes for students learning Māori in English-medium settings. Feedback was sought on the draft, and a final Curriculum is due to be launched in mid 2008. The draft Curriculum was followed in May by the launch of Ka Mau te Wehi, a multi-media resource kit to help New Zealand’s intermediate schoolchildren learn Māori. A pack consisting of DVDs, a CD, student worksheets and teacher lessons was sent to all English-medium schools with Year 7 and 8 students. The resource was made available online in September on the Ministry of Education’s website, Te Kete Ipurangi.

Pacific Languages

Curriculum guidelines for Vagahau Niue were launched in July, for Tongan in August and Tokelau in September. The guidelines are aimed at supporting teachers to deliver language programmes in both early childhood services and schools, and join the guidelines for Samoan and Cook Island Māori already available.

Reo Māori

In August Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori: the Māori Language Commission celebrated its twentieth anniversary and the twentieth anniversary of the Māori Language Act which declared Māori an official language of New Zealand.

QuickStats information released by Statistics New Zealand in April showed that after English (spoken by 95.9% of people), the most common language in which people could have a conversation about everyday things was Māori, spoken by 4.1% (157,110 people). The 2006 Census showed that 23.7% of Māori could hold a conversation about everyday things in te reo Māori, an increase of 1,128 people from the 2001 Census.

Survey on the Health of the Māori Language

The results of the Survey on the Health of the Māori Language 2006 were released during Māori Language Week in July. The survey involved face-to-face interviews with almost 4,000 Māori adults across the country. It measured language proficiency in speaking, listening, reading and writing, method of acquisition, as well as how often people use the language, where they use it and with whom. The survey shows that there have been significant gains in proficiency levels across all language skills: the percentage of those who ‘know more than a few words or phrases’ has decreased across all language skills, while the percentages of those who know the language ‘fairly well’, or ‘very well/well’ has risen across all language skills.

Māori Language in the 2007 Budget

Increased funding in the 2007 Budget was given to Kōhanga Reo, total immersion Māori language programmes in early childhood education, and Mā Te Reo, a government funded programme designed to support projects, programmes and activities which strengthen te reo Māori and contribute to its regeneration. Additional funding was also given to the areas of Māori broadcasting and other Māori education initiatives. Further government funding was offered in the form of scholarships for people who speak Māori to retrain as either te reo Māori or Māori medium teachers as part of a new ‘career changer’ category of scholarships.

Māori Medium Literacy Strategy

Te Reo Matatini, the Ministry of Education’s Māori Medium Literacy Strategy, was launched in May. It focuses on bilingual and immersion programmes from kohanga to secondary level.

 Māori Language Week and Awards

Māori Language Week was celebrated from 23-29 July. The Māori Language Commission:Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori, in partnership with Te Puni Kōkiri, the Human Rights Commission, Tourism New Zealand and the Māori Tourism Council promoted Tourism and Travel as the theme for the year. Resources on the theme of He Kōrero mō Aotearoa – On the Road with Te Reo, including popular phrase booklets, were produced and widely distributed.

The Māori Language Week awards attracted an increased number of applicants in a variety of categories. The awards ceremony was held in Wellington in September. The Supreme Award winner was Radio New Zealand, who developed a comprehensive and innovative Māori Language Week programme including Māori language and pronunciation training, presenters opening and closing live programmes in Māori, inclusion of a special bilingual segment, the development of a series of audio trailers of well known non-Māori advocating increased Māori use, interactive activities for internal staff as well as a special website revamp. Radio New Zealand has continued with many of these innovations since Māori Language Week.

Hui Taumata Mō Te Reo 2007

Hui Taumata Mō Te Reo 2007, a conference on the future of te reo Māori, was held in Wellington in September, and constituted a major review of the last 30 years of Māori language regeneration. Recurring themes were the strengthening and promotion of Māori language initiatives and activities at a local level, the need for improved resources and funding, and the sustainability, supply and proficiency of Māori language teachers. A key recognition was that the significant Māori language achievements over the past 30 years have contributed to more positive attitudes and behaviour from non-Māori towards the Māori language.

The major recommendations from the Hui Taumata were to:

  • devise a strategic plan aimed at supporting the regeneration of the Māori language in the home and intergenerationally within the family
  • present a submission to ‘Ka Hikitia’ (Ministry of Education Strategic Plan 2008-2012) that focuses on a more effective alignment of education resourcing for Māori language outcomes
  • devise a strategic plan aimed at resourcing and supporting already-established regional, local and tribal hubs of Māori language development activities with a goal of building and strengthening these to become centres of Māori language innovation
  • review and strengthen the Māori Language Act 1987.
Review of the Implementation of the Māori Language Strategy

In November the Office of the Auditor General published a Performance Audit Report on the implementation of the Māori Language Strategy, a 25 year strategy published in 2003 to co-ordinate and prioritise government action in the area of Māori language revitalisation. The purpose of the audit was to ascertain whether the lead agencies responsible for implementing the Strategy were carrying out their roles effectively. The audit produced 11 recommendations:

  1. That Te Puni Kōkiri ensures that its briefings to the Minister of Māori Affairs contain more detailed assessments of progress in implementing the Strategy.
  2. That each lead agency come to an explicit agreement with Te Puni Kōkiri about the best way for each agency to fulfil the Strategy’s planning requirements and ensure that the requirements are fulfilled as agreed.
  3. That the Ministry for Culture and Heritage engage more actively with key stakeholders in the Māori language arts area to encourage alignment between the stakeholders’ Māori language-related activities and the 25-year goals of the Strategy.
  4. That Te Puni Kōkiri and the other lead agencies work together to identify how each lead agency can influence the stakeholders in its sector to take part in Strategy planning and implementation.
  5. That Te Puni Kōkiri and the other lead agencies work together to create five-year Strategy outcomes to provide a focus for lead agency and stakeholder activities throughout each area of responsibility.
  6. That lead agencies identify shared outcomes where appropriate.
  7. That Te Puni Kōkiri and the other lead agencies work together to create five-year targets to measure progress towards the five-year outcomes, and include these targets in future planning.
  8. That lead agencies, in consultation with Te Puni Kōkiri, assess the work needed by each agency to effectively implement the Strategy, and the resources needed to carry out that work.
  9. That lead agencies consider how they will make available the resources needed to implement the Strategy, and advise their Minister if current resources are not sufficient.
  10. That, as part of the planned review of the Strategy in 2008/09, the ten areas of government responsibility for language revitalisation outlined by the Strategy are prioritised for action.
  11. That the 2008/09 review of the Strategy clarify the nature and extent of Te Puni Kōkiri’s evaluation role concerning the Government’s Māori language activities.
Google Māori

A Māori language option for the Google search engine began development in July this year. Google provided a template, and a team of volunteers worked to ensure translations line up with technology-based Māori words and to agree on common words across different Māori dialects. The project is seen as a valuable tool to help maintain the Māori language by expanding its use and relevance in modern technology.

New Zealand Sign Language

The inaugural NZSL Week was held in May, with the aim of raising awareness now that NZSL is an official language. The Deaf Association celebrated the week by providing NZSL posters that were distributed to 90% of New Zealand schools, giving hearing children the opportunity to learn some basic signs. NZSL teachers around the country also offered free 45 minute Taste of Sign Language classes. A new website was launched at to provide information about the history of sign language and New Zealand Deaf culture.

The first New Zealand Deaf Film Festival was also held in May in Auckland, Wellington, Nelson, Christchurch and Dunedin. The festival promoted Deaf culture and language via the medium of short films.

Pacific Languages

Figures from the 2006 Census released by Statistics New Zealand showed an overall decrease in the percentage of people speaking Pacific languages in New Zealand since the previous Census in 2001.

A high level roundtable meeting was held in Wellington in June, facilitated by the Human Rights Commission, to discuss the issue of addressing language loss in New Zealand, as it relates to the Niuean, Tokelauan and Cook Island Māori languages. The purpose of the roundtable was to do a stocktake of the current situation with regard to language loss in these communities, what is being done to address it, and what else can be done. The aim was to ensure close cooperation between relevant agencies in the development of a strategy to address all the issues. The issue was further discussed at the New Zealand Diversity Forum in August.

In September new resources for Cook Island Māori, Vagahau Niue and Gagana Tokelau were launched as part of the Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs’ Mind Your Language Project. The resources were developed in partnership with Ai Metua and Niu Development Inc, two organisations committed to increasing the number of New Zealand born Niuean and Cook Island people able to speak their languages. The launch of the resources was the first stage for Cook Island Māori and Gagana Tokelau, and the second stage for Vagahau Niue, adding to the pilot resources launched in October 2005. Vagahau Niue resources have now been expanded to include the website, an interactive tool which makes the Niuean language accessible to people anywhere in the world.

Greater Accessibility to Websites and Services for Non-English Speakers

There has been a noticeable increase in the number of websites providing multilingual translations of their pages, as well as a number of banks providing multilingual options when using their ATMs. Organisations such as the Charities Commission, Civil Defence and the Broadcasting Standards Authority have all added Māori, Samoan, Tongan, Korean, Chinese and Arabic translations of various web pages, as well as some other languages.

After an initial trial of ten ATMs, the National Bank launched 130 multilingual ATMs throughout New Zealand, which give users the choice of making their transactions in Chinese, Korean and Japanese as well as in English. In November the Bank of New

Zealand went a step further and made all its 420 ATMs multilingual, offering users the choice of Māori, English, Japanese, German, Korean, French or Chinese.


There have been some very positive developments in language diversity, both in schools and in the wider community, particularly in relation to te reo Māori and Pacific languages. The release of a Statement on Language Policy provides a framework for the development of specific strategies for different languages and sectors in the coming year.


UN International Year of Languages

2008 was designated by the United Nations as the International Year of Languages, with the theme Languages Matter. In New Zealand, the National Commission for UNESCO was the lead agency. The official launch was held at Te Papa on International Mother Languages Day in February. It included a workshop on the state of language learning, preservation and regeneration in New Zealand, including te reo Māori, Pacific languages, languages in schooling, New Zealand Sign Language and community languages.

The National Commission also sponsored a public lecture by Professor Anne Pauwels of the University of Western Australia in July on “Who’s afraid of bilingualism: Globalisation and its effect upon linguistic diversity and multilingualism”. A number of language conferences and workshops acknowledged the theme in a variety of ways. They included:

  • The ESOL Home Tutors conference in Nelson in May on the theme of Our Changing Identity.
  • The NZ Association of Language Teachers Conference in Wellington in July on Absolutely Positively Languages.
  • The Sign Language Interpreters Association of New Zealand (SLIANZ) conference in Auckland in July on Best Practice: The Bridge to Professionalism.
  • The fifth International Gender and Language Association conference hosted by Victoria University in Wellington in July.
  • The ACE (Adult and Community Education) conference in Manukau in July with a focus on Pacific languages and cultures.
  • The CLESOL (Community Languages and English for Speakers of Other Languages) conference in Auckland in October on Language and Identity: Building Communities of Learning.
  • A seminar on The Acquisition of Languages in a Multicultural Society organised by the Russian Cultural Centre Trust in Christchurch in October.
  • The inaugural Indigenous Language Revitalisation and Teaching Conference hosted by Te Ataarangi at the Mangatü Marae in October.
  • An Applied Linguistics Association of New Zealand’s symposium in Auckland in November on Bridging the Gap Between Theory, Research and Practice.
  • The New Zealand Language and Society conference in Dunedin in November on The Linguistics of Voice.
National Language Policy Network

Te Waka Reo, the national language policy network facilitated by the Human Rights Commission, continued to grow. The Commission published the national Statement on Language Policy that was first mooted at the NZ Diversity Forum in 2007 and then presented as a draft for discussion at the 2007 LED (Language Education and Diversity) Conference. The statement provides a framework for the development of strategies for English literacy and ESOL, te reo Māori, NZ Sign Language, Pacific languages and community languages, as well as sector strategies for languages in the home, the community, education, public services, business and broadcasting. Identified priorities are to establish an appropriate coordinating mechanism for language policy, identify lead agencies, develop specific strategies, promote cooperation between agencies and communities, foster positive public attitudes to language diversity, train and support more teachers and develop resources for language learning and use.

The Commission hosted a workshop at the New Zealand Diversity Forum in August in association with the Ministry of Education and the New Zealand Commission for UNESCO on Languages in Schools and Schools in Communities. The revised New Zealand Curriculum includes a new area for learning languages. It envisages all students having the opportunity to develop language acquisition and intercultural skills to enable them to participate more actively in New Zealand’s diverse multicultural society and in the global community. All schools teaching Year 7-10 students should be working towards offering opportunities for students to learn at least one additional language. This is a major change that is going to present significant challenges in New Zealand schools. The Language Forum looked at the engagement between schools and minority language communities and how they can cooperate to increase learning opportunities for both schools and communities.

Language Line

The Office of Ethnic Affairs’ Language Line – a telephone interpreting service – continued to expand its services to central government, local government, health care providers and schools. The purpose of the service is to provide equity of access to government services for people who speak little or no English. The service is free to clients of participating agencies. Language Line provides professional interpreting services in 39 languages and receives about 700-800 calls per week.

Interpreting Canterbury

Interpreting Wellington established a new branch in Christchurch in September. The new branch, Interpreting Canterbury, will train and provide professional community interpreters locally. A launch function was hosted by the mayor of Christchurch on International Interpreters Day, and an inaugural interpreter training and refreshment course was held in October.

New Māori Channel Launched

New Zealand’s first 100 per cent Māori language television channel, Te Reo, was launched by Māori Television at the World Indigenous Television Broadcasting Conference in Auckland in March. The new channel broadcasts three hours a day, seven days a week, during the prime time hours of 8-11pm on both Freeview and SKY Digital, and is free of advertising. The aim of Te Reo is to better meet the needs of fluent Māori speakers and Māori language learners, and to enable New Zealanders to have full immersion Māori households. It also provides greater opportunity for Māori Television to more effectively fulfill its statutory objectives, particularly in regard to increasing the promotion of languages and culture.

Māori Language Week

Māori Language Week in July was again marked by a wide range of activities throughout the country involving schools, media, iwi and community organisations, businesses and local and central government. The partnership between the Māori Language Commission, Te Puni Kōkiri and the Human Rights Commission was expanded for 2008 to include the Kōhanga Reo National Trust and The Families Commission, reflecting the theme of Te Reo i te Kainga, Māori Language in the Home. Joint winners of the supreme award for Māori Language Week were TV3 and Ngāiterangi Iwi Rünanga.

Highlights of the week included the launch of the online version of the monolingual Māori language dictionary Te Papakupu Māori and Google Māori. Google Māori is a tool that enables users to access the Google search engine completely in te reo Māori. It took a voluntary group brought together by over a year to translate the 1600 terms and phrases (more than 8500 words) required.

For each of the past five years, a simple phrase book has been produced by the partner organisations on the theme of the week. Non-Māori responses to these were tested, along with other promotional materials in research by Julia de Bres of Victoria University for her doctoral thesis on “Planning for Tolerability: Promoting Positive Attitudes and Behaviours Towards the Māori Language Among Non-Māori New Zealanders”. The booklets proved to be among the most popular resources tested. The thesis more broadly investigates the effectiveness of promoting positive attitudes and behaviours towards the Māori language among non-Māori New Zealanders as a contributing factor in Māori language regeneration.

He Pātaka Kupu: Māori Monolingual Dictionary

Seven years of work from a team of dedicated writers culminated in the publication of a major monolingual dictionary of the Māori language by the Māori Language Commission in September. The hard copy publication followed the launch of an online version in Māori Language Week. He Pātaka Kupu has 1200 pages and 24,000 entries, which include synonyms, tribal variants and some of the more recent developments in Māori language. It is one of the largest monolingual dictionaries to be published in the Pacific, and is the largest of its genre to be published in New Zealand.

He Püranga Tākupu O Taranaki: Taranaki Participatory Dictionary

A new Taranaki participatory dictionary, He Püranga Tākupu o Taranaki, was launched at Parihaka in September. The language resource was compiled by Taranaki people in a bid to revive and preserve their dialect. There are now few elders who speak the dialect, so the aim is to see it live again in Taranaki’s young people. The word list is the result of three decades of work and is part of a multi-faceted strategy that includes an online community-based dictionary and ongoing hui to continue with the research.

Māori Legal Dictionary

Funding of $673,000 to be spread over three years was granted by the Tertiary Education Commission to Victoria University senior law lecturer Mamari Stephens to compile a dictionary that will express legal concepts in te reo Māori. The dictionary will include Māori definitions for words such as “judge” and “trial” as well as definitions for legal concepts. The first stage in compiling the dictionary will involve collecting texts in te reo Māori from the 19th to the 21st centuries about legal topics and determining the continuing relevance of the terms.

Te Ipukarea

The Tertiary Education Commission also awarded $1.5 million in funding for the establishment of Te Ipukarea, a new National Māori Language Institute. The project is led by AUT University’s Te Ara Poutama (Faculty of Māori Development) in collaboration with other organisations and educational institutions in New Zealand, including Te Wānanga o Aotearoa, Te Ataarangi, Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology, Lincoln University, University of Canterbury and Victoria University of Wellington. The focus of the institute will be the promotion of excellence in scholarship, teaching and research in te reo Māori. It will concurrently develop and advance a digital strategy for the creation, delivery and assessment of the reo Māori curriculum and the collection and dissemination of Mātauranga Māori.

English/Māori Place Names Recognised

The National Library announced a major milestone in the international recognition of New Zealand’s English/Māori place names. The US Library of Congress agreed to accept New Zealand dual language place names for inclusion in Library of Congress Subject Headings, the de facto international standard. These headings will now be in bibliographic records available on the National Bibliographic Database and for use worldwide. The place names are mostly the result of the Crown’s settlement with Ngāti Tahu in 2003, when 88 South Island place names were changed to dual language place names, the majority to joint English/Māori names. In April 2006, after much discussion, the Library of Congress agreed to accept the New Zealand Place Names Database on the Land Information New Zealand website as the authority for New Zealand place names. Since then, guidelines for these subject headings have been developed in consultation with the Library of Congress.

Launch of Te Marautanga O Aotearoa (Māori-Medium Curriculum)

Te Marautanga o Aotearoa was launched in September 2008. Along with the New Zealand Curriculum for Englishmedium schools, Te Marautanga o Aotearoa sets the direction for teaching and learning in Maori-medium schools. It gives flexibility and guidance for kura (schools) to work closely with whānau, hapü and iwi to develop a school-based curriculum for their communities. It was distributed to the Māori-medium education sector in November. It is not a translation of the New Zealand Curriculum – it is a document written in Māori, from a Māori perspective, giving effect to the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi. Te Marautanga o Aotearoa is founded on the aspiration to develop successful, confident learners who are effective communicators in the Māori world and who are healthy and secure in their identity and sense of belonging. All learners will have the opportunity to acquire knowledge in all learning areas and to develop key competencies. Through this approach, they will be able to reach their full potential, and participate effectively and positively in the Māori community and the global world.

Community-Based Language Initiative

The Ministry of Education Community-Based Language Initiative (CBLI) focuses on community-based initiatives that enhance parent and caregiver Māori language skills and provides for the development of Māori language teaching and learning resources. The initiative contributes to iwi language development with a strong focus on supporting learning and teaching both in schools and at home. CBLI contributes to the overarching strategic intent of Māori students enjoying education success as Māori, identified in the Ka Hikitia — Managing for Success strategy released in 2008.

New Zealand Sign Language Week

New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL) Week took place from May 5-11. This year’s theme was “The freedom to sign is our freedom of expression”. The focus was on raising awareness among the general public of Deaf people’s rights to employment, education and access to information in their own language. Events for the week included a launch at Parliament, a charity art auction, the NZSL Week Awards, free Taste of Sign Language classes, “signathons” in shopping malls, and a Sponsor-a-Sign Language-Learner Project at schools.

Online Dictionary of NZSL

The Tertiary Education Commission awarded funding of $856,625 to a project to develop an online dictionary of New Zealand Sign Language. The project is led by Victoria University of Wellington, in collaboration with AUT University, the Deaf Association of New Zealand, van Asch Deaf Education Centre and Kelston Deaf Education Centre. The purpose of the project is to expand access to NZSL by developing an online multimedia dictionary with about 5000 NZSL signs. The dictionary will be available as a reference tool to a wide range of user groups in New Zealand and elsewhere, both within and outside the tertiary sector.

Pacific Language Strategy

The Pacific Language Strategy is a priority for the retention and safeguarding of Pacific languages in New Zealand. The Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs and the Ministry for Culture and Heritage held several meetings with relevant agencies to discuss the development of a Pacific Language Strategy to address the issue of language decline in Pacific communities in New Zealand. It was recognised that all Pacific languages needed to be accorded a stronger status. It was agreed across relevant agencies that a whole-ofgovernment approach to safeguarding Pacific languages was key to progressing a Pacific language strategy. There is a need to shift negative attitudes: stronger emphasis needs to be placed on the benefits of learning a Pacific language, as well as emphasis that learning a Pacific language doesn’t need to occur at the expense of learning English. The Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs has taken the lead on this approach and a Cabinet paper is planned for July 2009, following the further development of the rationale and proposed options to advance a Pacific language strategy. The strategy also dovetails with the completion of the successful Mind Your Language initiatives, which came about as a result of a Cabinet bid in July 2006.

Mind Your Language

Mind Your Language is a project led by the Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs that supports the use of Pacific languages in the home. The Ministry is working in partnership with the Niuean, Tokelauan and Cook Islands communities to promote the value and functional use of Pacific languages in order to foster and preserve these community languages for future generations. The programme has received $600,000 in funding over three years (2006-2009) to carry out projects to further these goals.

Phase one of the project involved the production of written resources. Phase two has seen the development of three websites. The Niuean language website, www.learnniue., was launched in 2007 and the Cook Island Māori and Tokelauan websites, and, were launched in September 2008.

Cook Island Māori Learning Languages Resource I-E-Ko-Ko! An Introduction to Cook Islands Māori

In July the Ministry of Education released a new multimedia programme, I-E-KO-KO: An Introduction to Cook Islands Māori, to assist the teaching of Cook Islands Māori in New Zealand schools. The resource is a part of the Learning Languages series that is already being implemented in schools, including: Hai! An Introduction to Japanese; Si! An Introduction to Spanish; Oui! An Introduction to French; Ja! An Introduction to German; Hao! An Introduction to Chinese, and Ka Mau te Wehi! An Introduction to Te Reo Maori. I-E-KO-KO provides a range of learning activities for Year 7 and 8 students and teachers.

Sāmoan Language Week

Sāmoan Language Week took place in May, the fourth year it has been celebrated in New Zealand. It is promoted by the Ministry of Education and was marked in schools by displays of Sāmoan artefacts, using Sāmoan words and phrases, and incorporating Sāmoan perspectives and practices into studies during the week.

National Sāmoan Language Speech Contest

Young people from 14 schools in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Levin took part in the National Samoan Language Speech Contest in Lower Hutt in September. The contest was organised by FAGASA, the National Association of Sāmoan Language Teachers, which is a national organisation aiming to maintain and promote Sāmoan language and the teaching of traditional values among young people. The theme was “health”, and sponsors included the Capital Coast District Health Board and the Hutt City Council.

Looking Back

In the UN International Year of Languages, the launch of the first wholly Māori language television channel and a monolingual dictionary were major milestones for the Māori language, along with the introduction of a specific curriculum for Māori immersion schools. Progress in the protection of Pacific languages continued with development of new language learning websites and the start of work on a Pacific languages strategy.

Looking Ahead

A revised Māori language strategy is due for completion in 2009. Work needs to continue on the development of a Pacific languages strategy and on a strategy for community languages.


Cuts to adult and community education

In the 2009 Budget, the Government unveiled changes for the funding of adult and community education (ACE), which includes language classes. Government investment in ACE was reduced as were subsidies to so-called “hobby and personal interest courses”. School ACE funding will be cut by 80 per cent in 2010, and it is likely only a small number of schools will receive ACE funding for 2010 and beyond.

Practitioners were concerned about the impact these cuts will have on language learning in the community.

Agencies’ language provision

The outbreak of the N1HI virus (swine flu) in April 2009 brought the provision of essential public information in community languages into the spotlight. Containment

of the virus relied primarily on public awareness, but in the important initial stages, no information was made available in languages other than English. The World Health Organisation officially declared an influenza pandemic in early June, but it was not until late July that information in a range of languages became available on the Ministry of Health’s website. The Human Rights Commission conducted informal surveys of government websites for Samoan Language Week and Mäori Language Week to determine the level of government information provided in languages other than English. The Samoan Language Week survey found that of 105 central government agencies, only 15 had information in Samoan. Nine of these were outside the core public service. A sample of local government websites identified only two that contained information in Samoan. While searching for Samoan information, websites were also checked for other languages (including te reo Mäori). Overall findings of the survey showed:

  • Central and local government agency websites are mainly monolingual, with little or no use of languages other than English.
  • Major government service agencies and councils in areas with a high proportion of Samoan residents have no information in Samoan at all, despite their considerable Samoan client base.
  • Where Samoan language resources are provided, they are often not signposted on the organisation’s home page and are often difficult to locate.
  • Although many public sector organisations subscribe to
  • the Language Line service (which includes Samoan), this is rarely promoted on their website.
  • The Mäori Language Week survey likewise indicated most government websites did not have much te reo Mäori content. In response to the survey, officials in charge of the government web domain and the Race Relations Commissioner invited representatives from government agencies to a round table discussion. The Commissioner concluded by recommending agencies identify the particular issues for their organisations, measure their current provision of te reo, research the extent to which it meets user needs, experiment with providing more content in te reo and develop evaluative tools.
  • During the year, a range of government agencies and NGOs extended the information they provide into a wider range of community languages. Some examples include:
    • Family Planning published six brochures in Chinese and a new booklet in Somali.
    • Te Rau Matatini, the national Mäori health workforce development organisation, launched Chur Chur Bro, an interactive bilingual self-help mental health website for rangatahi Mäori.
    • The Human Rights Commission published its complaints form in a number of community languages and provided links to government information available in Samoan for Samoan Language Week.
    • The Broadcasting Standards Authority extended the range of languages its complaints information is available in and ran a multilingual poster campaign on buses in Auckland and Wellington.
    • The Mental Health Foundation launched the bilingual Kai Xin Xing Dong Mandarin and English mental health website to reduce stigma and discrimination related to mental illness in New Zealand’s Chinese community.
    • The Parkinson’s Foundation produced An Introduction to  Parkinson’s pamphlets in 10 languages for Parkinson’s Awareness Week.
    • The Office for Disability Issues commissioned and published a NZ Sign Language translation of the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities on its website.
    • The Elections New Zealand website was acknowledged by the Human Rights Commission for best practice in multilingual communication.
English-only workplace policies

A sign at a supermarket, telling staff only English was to be spoken at work, attracted media attention. The sign said the use of foreign languages made customers and staff uncomfortable. The matter was resolved quickly and a representative of the supermarket chain appeared on television to explain the sign was put up in error by a junior manager. A bus company received media attention when a similar policy was implemented around the same time. Since 2002, the Human Rights Commission has received over 100 complaints and enquiries relating to issues of

English-only policies in the workplace. Just over half of these were from employees, most of who were concerned their employers had implemented or were planning to implement such a policy. A number of complaints were received from employees concerned languages other than English were being spoken in their workplace and they wanted further information on English-only policies. A small proportion of the enquiries were from employers or human resources officers wanting advice in implementing Englishonly policies. The remainder of the complaints and enquiries were from people who wanted to discuss English-only policies in specific workplaces. There was an increase in the number of such approaches to the Commission in 2009, largely as a result of the media attention.

Mäori language curriculum guidelines for English-medium schools launched

The first ever Mäori language curriculum guidelines for mainstream schools, Te Aho Arataki Marau mö te Ako te Reo Mäori – Kura Auraki, were launched in March at

Taurua Marae, Lake Rotoiti. The curriculum guidelines are the outcome of an extensive process of consultation, development and trialling. They provide an important tool to implement Section 61 of the Education Act, which requires schools to take all reasonable steps to provide te reo Mäori me öna tikanga to students when parents ask for it.

Health of the Mäori language reports completed

Te Puni Kökiri completed a series of 13 reports on the 2006 Survey on the Health of the Mäori Language. One report provides national data; four reports cover the broadcasting, education, arts and archives sectors; and eight reports present regional data. These publications share the findings of data collected from the 2006 Survey on the Health of the Mäori Language and the 2006 Survey of Attitudes, Values and Beliefs towards the Mäori Language. The findings help measure Mäori language health and progress towards the goals set out in the Mäori Language Strategy 2003.

Review of the Mäori Language Strategy

The Mäori Language Strategy (MLS) was confirmed by government in 2003 and published by Te Puni Kökiri and Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Mäori. Te Puni Kökiri and Te Taura Whiri reviewed the MLS in 2008-09. At the end of 2009, the results were under consideration by the Minister of Mäori Affairs. The current MLS continues to provide direction for work in the Mäori language sector.

Budget increases for language development

The 2009 Budget allocated $4.5 million for the retention and revitalisation of Mäori language and culture. This includes new funding of $3 million, allocated to the Whänau Development Programme over three years, to provide information and advice to whänau about Mäori language acquisition and use through a network of mentors.

Mäori Language Week – Te Wiki o te Reo Mäori

Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Mäori reported increased participation across New Zealand, coupled with unprecedented demand for resources during Te Wiki o te Reo Mäori in July. The theme was “Te reo i te häpori, Mäori language in the community”. Chief Executive Huhana Rokx called it the “most successful Mäori Language Week ever”.

Highlights included:

  • TVNZ’s Breakfast programme using Mäori language place names for weather reports
  • the Montana Mäori Literacy Award for 2009 to He Pätaka Kupu, the first dictionary written entirely in the Mäori language
  • the introduction of predictive texting and voice recognition in te reo Mäori on Telecom’s new XT network
  • the launch of m.Mäori, a free application with 40 Mäori phrases that can be downloaded on to mobile phones to help pronunciation
  • the translation of Spongebob Squarepants into te reo Mäori, episodes of which were broadcast on Nickelodeon
  • Air New Zealand’s grabaseat website in te reo Mäori
  • the trial of Ngäi Tahu prototype online interactive Mäori Language Readers.
He Huia Kaimanawa and Mäori Language Awards

The first two-day Mäori Language Expo, He Huia Kaimanawa, was held in Porirua in October. It featured a language symposium and the Mäori Language Awards. The awards recognise commitment to Mäori language regeneration. The winner of the supreme award, Te Tohu Huia Kaimanawa, was the Raukawa Mäori Trust Board. Professor Timoti Karetu, a long-time advocate and supporter of te reo was the inaugural winner of the Taku Toa Takimano award, given in recognition of an individual’s efforts for the language. The language learning programme Te Ataarangi received the Te Aumangea award, which is given to a group or organisation in recognition of their efforts towards language revitalisation.

Google te reo translator toolkit

In October, Google announced te reo Mäori had been added to its translator toolkit. For the past 18 months, Google had been researching how incorporating minority languages into its applications could help keep them alive and diversify access to them on a global scale. Waikato University computer science lecturer Dr Te Taka Keegan helped Google launch the toolkit. Dr Keegan spent six months at Google’s headquarters, in Mountain View, California.

Me he rangi ka paruhi i te waru tö rite?

William Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18, which starts with the line, “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day”, was translated into te reo Mäori by Tühoe translator Te Haumihiata Mason. A copy of the sonnet (Oriori 18) was unveiled at Shakespeare’s Globe, in London, in August as part of its Compleate Workes 2009, celebrating the 400th anniversary of the publication of the sonnets. Actor Rawiri Paratene read the sonnet in te reo. The event featured performances from the London-based Mäori club Ngäti Ranana.

World Linguapax Award for Mäori language champion

Writer, academic and Mäori language pioneer Käterina Te Heikökö Mataira received the 2009 Linguapax Award for her lifelong work to revive the Mäori language. In the 1970s, Ms Mataira co-developed the Te Ataarangi community based programme of Mäori language learning with the late Ngoingoi Pewhairangi, which trained native speakers of Mäori to teach their language. Linguapax is a Spanish-based non-governmental organisation affiliated with UNESCO, dedicated to the global preservation and promotion of linguistic diversity. This is the first time a New Zealander has received the award.

New Zealand Sign Language Week

New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL) Week was held in May with the theme “New Zealand sign language is in your hands”. Activities included taster NZSL classes, toolkits for schools, the NZSL in Action Awards and the Deaf Short Film Festival. As part of the film festival, a repeat performance of the Odd Socks bi-lingual play, Words Apart, was held in Wellington. The play combines two of New Zealand’s official languages, visual NZSL and verbal English. American performer John Maucere toured the country performing his show Deafywood.

Deaf People and Human Rights report launched

The release of a report on Deaf people and human rights by the Swedish National Association of the Deaf and the World Federation of the Deaf was marked by an event in New Zealand. The report highlighted New Zealand as the only country out of 93 surveyed to have a sign language-specific law. Human Rights Commissioner Robyn Hunt said access to education for Deaf children is still of particular concern because of a shortage of sign language interpreters in schools. She said the next step should be the establishment of a New Zealand Sign Language Commission, with similar aims and objectives to the Mäori Language Commission. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was translated into NZSL. New Zealand is only the second country in the world to translate the Convention into its own sign language.

Community-led NZSL strategy proposed

A group of Deaf community stakeholders have proposed the development of a NZSL strategy to address barriers to language rights for deaf people not addressed by the NZSL Act 2006. The group will ask the Deaf community about priorities for NZSL and will use the feedback to develop an action plan for achieving the NZSL priorities.

Project Karere launched

Te Roopu Waiora Trust launched a new initiative using remote video technology to provide an interpreting service. This allows deaf speakers of Mäori to participate in forums where te reo is used. Deaf people sign to an interpreter via a web camera, and the interpreter then relays their message in speech to the hearing person. Project Karere is going to develop a digital pänui and translation service and will make internet radio programmes to provide information for the Mäori blind.

Samoan Language Week

Samoan Language Week, held in May, expanded into the wider community, lifting the profile of the Samoan community and language. There are over 130,000 Samoan New Zealanders. The Samoan community is the fourth largest ethnic community after NZ Europeans, Mäori and Chinese, and the language is the third most commonly spoken language in New Zealand after English and Mäori. Approximately 2300 students are studying Samoan language at 30 schools, mostly in the Auckland and Wellington regions. Samoan Language Week was originally part of a series of Pacific language weeks run by Radio Niu FM in the run-up to Mäori Language Week. It was taken up by FAGASA Inc (the Association for the Teaching of Samoan in New Zealand) in schools, and in 2009 further developed as a partnership with the Human Rights Commission and several other organisations. Highlights of the week included:

  • the opening at St Patrick’s College, in Wellington, attended by the Minister of Pacific Island Affairs, the Race Relations Commissioner and the Samoan High Commissioner
  •  widespread coverage in Pacific media, particularly on Tagata Pasifika, Radio Samoa, Pacific Radio Network and Radio New Zealand National
  • programmes of community activities run by Waitakere, Manukau and Wellington City Libraries.
Launch of Gagana Tokelau: The Tokelau Language Guidelines

Guests from the Tokelau community and education sector joined the Minister of Education to celebrate the launch of Gagana Tokelau: The Tokelau Language Guidelines at Wellington College in May. The Minister emphasised the importance of celebrating the diversity of cultures and languages in New Zealand. Work on the guidelines began in the late 1990s when the Tokelau community wanted to have their language taught in New Zealand early childhood services and schools. Work began in earnest in December 2004, when a team of three Tokelauan writers began writing the guidelines.

Launch of Samoan language guidelines

The Minister of Pacific Island Affairs launched guidelines and a new multimedia resource for teaching and learning Samoan in September. Ta’iala mo le Gagana Samoa: The Gagana Samoa Guidelines provides a framework for early childhood services, primary and secondary schools. Mua O! An Introduction to Gagana Samoa is aimed at students in years 7-10 and provides a range of entry-level resources

for teachers and students. The guidelines and resources will be used by schools in New Zealand to design and shape a language programme to include Gagana Samoa.

Endangered Pacific languages conference

The second Critiquing Pasifika Education @ the University conference took place in July at AUT University in Auckland. The theme was “Endangered languages and cultures: what can we do?” Issues raised at the conference included:

  • the lack of research literature on Pacific communities and languages in New Zealand
  • the dominance and perceived prestige of English as a major factor in the decline of Pacific languages, and the limits of English in expressing Pacific concepts
  • concern about the future policy direction of the Pacific Languages Strategy and whether it is enough to stop language loss
  • alternatives for language revival: immersion-schooling, bilingual education, multilingual education or the development of a universal, auxiliary language
  • the importance of language education, from early childhood to tertiary levels
  • the role of gender in language and cultural loss and preservation.
Pacific Languages Strategy

The Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs is developing a Pacific Languages Strategy, which includes a vision, key goals and specific languages to foster. The proposal awaits Cabinet consideration, after which a more comprehensive strategy will be developed in conjunction with initiatives of community groups. Challenges identified at a forum on the Pacific Languages Strategy at the New Zealand Diversity Forum in August included: declining Pacific language skills among NZ-born Pacific peoples and those whose populations in New Zealand are larger than in their home countries; negative attitudes in wider NZ society; languages seen as important only for culture and identity purposes; the lack of institutional support for Pacific languages; and the devaluation of bilingualism in relation to Pacific languages.

Survey on community languages maintenance

Language Line and the Community Languages Association in New Zealand conducted a survey of preschool teachers to assess possibilities for language maintenance in early childhood education. The survey asked how they would feel about someone visiting to teach a song, read a story, or show food or other cultural traditions. Preschool teachers contacted were enthusiastic about bringing other languages and cultures into their centres. Many were already doing this and would welcome the support.

Interpreting in New Zealand: The Pathway Forward

Language Line published Interpreting in New Zealand: The Pathway Forward, as part of an initiative by the Office of Ethnic Affairs’ Language Line team, to help interpreters keep up to date with developments. At the book launch in October, Sir Paul Reeves recalled the importance of Tupaia, the famous Polynesian interpreter who accompanied Captain Cook. There have been over 175,000 sessions using Language Line in the past six years.

International Languages Week

International Languages Week (ILW), held in August, encourages New Zealanders to celebrate cultural and language diversity and promotes learning international languages. Language teachers from around the country organised school-based activities and celebrations. ILW national coordinator Kenneth Leong said, “The New Zealand we live in today is culturally and linguistically far more diverse than it has ever been. Hence, it has never been more important for New Zealanders to have an understanding of international languages and cultures.”

Asian languages forum

A forum on Asian languages in New Zealand was hosted by the Office of Ethnic Affairs at the New Zealand Diversity Forum. Discussion focused on the benefits of learning and maintaining Asian languages for business (particularly China), education, tourism, art and creativity, and culture and identities. Challenges included strategies for retaining mother tongues and learning another language; funding and support to develop curriculum and resources; difficulties in sourcing qualified teachers; and lack of support from the mainstream education system. Very few high schools offer Asian languages and teacher training does not require an additional language. The new New Zealand curriculum, stating students should learn a second language, was seen as a step in the right direction. It would require a large amount of infrastructure, resources and teachers to put it into practice. However, the Australian Government has put substantial financial resources into schools over three years to boost the learning of Asian languages.

Priority 2010

Completing strategies for Mäori and Pacific languages, and developing strategies for New Zealand Sign Language, community languages, translation and interpreting services and languages in schools.


Review of human rights: language

Human Rights in New Zealand 2010 – Ngä Tika Tangata o Aotearoa assessed the situation of languages:

A range of initiatives have been implemented to further the goal of establishing New Zealand as a bilingual nation by 2040, and supporting other languages in the *community. In addition to new curriculum requirements to learn a second language, these include the development of new strategies, resources and media, the establishment and increasing profile of awareness-raising language weeks, and making New Zealand Sign Language an official language of New Zealand.

Resourcing remains a challenge, particularly in the provision of teachers with high degrees of fluency in te reo Mäori. The timely provision of information – particularly relating to health and government – in a range of community languages is similarly challenging. English-only polices in the workplace have repeatedly been the cause of complaints to the Human Rights Commission.

Call for a national languages commission

A call was made at a Human Rights Commission forum in August to establish a national languages commission that would advocate for improved provision of language teaching and language services other than te reo Mäori and New Zealand Sign Language. The forum was held during International Languages Week in response to a call from the Prime Minister for more schools to teach Mandarin. He had recently returned from a visit to China, and believed our learning of the language was essential for a good business relationship with China. The forum felt that separate provision should continue to be made for te reo Mäori and New Zealand Sign Language as official languages of New Zealand. But without a central advocacy body for other languages and interpreting services, progress in moving towards a multilingual society would be too slow and too little. In December, the Commission’s five-yearly review identified the development and implementation of a national languages policy as a priority action area.

Review of Mäori language strategyand spending

In July, the Minister of Mäori Affairs announced a comprehensive review of the strategy and infrastructure for the Mäori language sector. He said the purpose of the review was to ensure that programmes and expenditure across the whole Government were responsive to iwi aspirations. “I am asking the review group to consider whether responsibilities, programmes, services and expenditure are co ordinated, and whether or not they are located with the right agencies or Mäori stakeholders. By restructuring and consolidating the sector, we can only achieve better results. A revised Mäori language strategy will bring together all our efforts to promote and revitalise our language – a strategy that will be based on partnership between the Crown and iwi/Mäori.” The minister appointed a group of seven language experts to carry out the review. The group is chaired by Professor Tamati Reedy, and the members are Toni Waho, Hana O’Regan, Cathy Dewes, Te Kähautu Maxwell (replacing Pem Bird when he became president of the Mäori Party), Pania Papa and Rahera Shortland. Areas under the spotlight include the Mäori education sector, Mäori broadcasting and funding for hapü and iwi. The review group held hui with Mäori around the country and met with representatives of government agencies and other interested parties. Its report is due in early 2011.

Waitangi Tribunal calls for action to avert crisis for te reo Mäori

The Waitangi Tribunal released a report on te reo Mäori in October. This is part of a wider inquiry into the WAI 262 claim on flora and fauna and cultural intellectual property, but it was released early to inform the minister’s review into the Mäori language sector. The Tribunal found that te reo Mäori was approaching a crisis point. Diminishing proportions of younger speakers meant that older native speakers were not being replaced when they passed away. Since 1993, the proportion of Mäori children who attended köhanga reo had dropped from just under half to under a quarter. At school, the proportion of Mäori children participating in Mäori-medium education had dropped from a high of 18.6 per cent in 1999 to 15.2 per cent in 2009. The total number of school children in Mäori-medium learning had dropped each successive year since 2004. If the peak proportions of the 1990s had been maintained, 9600 more Mäori children would be attending köhanga reo today and an extra 5700 Mäori school children would be learning through te reo. The 2006 Census revealed 8000 fewer Mäori conversational speakers of te reo than if the 2001 proportion been maintained. The Tribunal said it had identified a number of shortcomings when assessing the Crown’s performance on te reo Mäori over the past 25 years. They saw no evidence of true partnership between Mäori and the Crown. The 2003 Mäori Language Strategy was a well-meaning but essentially standard and pre-consulted Crown policy that did nothing to motivate Mäori at the grassroots. Not enough had been done to implement the 1986 Tribunal recommendation that speakers be allowed to use te reo in any dealings with the courts, government departments and other public bodies. There had been repeated failures of policy. The most profound was the failure to train enough teachers to meet the predictable demand for Mäori-medium education, demonstrated by the surge in köhanga reo enrolments in the 1980s. The Mäori Language Strategy was another failure of policy. It was too abstract and was constructed within the parameters of a bureaucratic comfort zone. There had also been genuine problems with its implementation due to a lack of leadership and commitment amongst the responsible crown agencies. Given the failures of policy, it followed that the resources made available to te reo had been inadequate.

 The Tribunal made four fundamental recommendations:

  • that Te Taura Whiri (the Mäori Language Commission) become the lead Mäori language sector agency. This would address the problems caused by the lack of ownership and leadership
  • that Te Taura Whiri function as a Crown–Mäori partnership through the equal appointment of crown and Mäori appointees to its board – this reflected concern that a te reo revival will not work if responsibility for setting the direction is not shared with Mäori
  • that Te Taura Whiri be given increased powers, so public bodies are compelled to contribute to the revival of te reo and key agencies are held properly accountable for the strategies they adopt (for instance, targets for the training of te reo teachers must be met, education curricula involving te reo must be approved, and public bodies in districts with enough te reo speakers and schools with a certain proportion of Mäori students must submit Mäori language plans for approval
  • that regional public bodies and schools consult iwi in preparing their plans, so that iwi have a central role in revitalising te reo in their areas and efforts to promote the language at grassroots are encouraged.
Te reo Mäori in Australia

The large number of Mäori living in Australia face losing their native language, in part because they assimilate so easily, according to findings by Victoria University researcher Paul Hamer released in August. One in six Mäori live in Australia, but Hamer’s research indicates that only six per cent have retained the Mäori language while living there. Mäori are considered to be more at risk of losing their language than other migrant groups because many are not fluent to begin with; their English skills help them fit easily into many Australian workplaces and communities; and their intermarriage rates are high. New Zealand and Australian federal and state humanrights commissioners came together at the Australia New Zealand Race Relations Roundtable in November. They agreed to work together to promote the protection of the a notable feature of Maori Language Week in July was the evidence that the business sector is now comfortable with te reo Mäori. In earlier years, the Human Rights Commission acknowledged small businesses, such as the Four Square in Tokomaru Bay and the BP Service Station in Kaikohe, for having bilingual signage. Their stories were given prominence in the national media because of their novelty. Suggestions that Mäori brand names would give New Zealand products a marketing edge were laughed at. Today, te reo is a common sight on supermarket shelves, whether promoting wine, cheese, tea, instant dinners or organic foods. Newspapers, radio and television have increasingly embraced Mäori Language Week, and Mäori words are in everyday use in their stories, programmes and greetings. Two years ago, the focus of Mäori Language Week was on tourism, and many tourism operators increased their use of the language. But never before 2010 has a business the size of Progressive Enterprises, owner of 152 Countdown, Woolworths and Foodtown supermarkets all over New Zealand, with 2.4 million customers a week, made such a large investment in Mäori Language Week. This included bilingual signage, advertising, mailers, posters and staff wearing stickers in support of the week. Progressive Enterprises reported a positive public and staff response. Other innovations in 2010 included the introduction of a Mäori language option on BNZ’s ATMs in March; the opening of New Zealand’s largest shopping mall, Te Awa, in Hamilton, with bilingual signage in July; and the Domain Names Commission’s launch in July of domain names using macrons for Mäori language addresses on the internet. The results of Te Puni Kökiri’s three-yearly survey of public attitudes to the Mäori language were released during Mäori Language Week.

The survey found a major shift in attitudes of non-Mäori between 2000 and 2009. Respect for people who speak Mäori fluently has increased from 74 per cent to 87 per cent. The number of people who believe it is a good thing for Mäori to be spoken in public places, such as the street or supermarket, has almost doubled from 40 per cent to 77 per cent. And 64 per cent of non-Mäori respondents consider some Mäori language education should be compulsory in schools for all children. Public approval of government funding for Mäori radio stations has risen from 73 per cent to 85 per cent, and 64 per cent agree that the Government should encourage the use of Mäori in everyday situations. Support for the use of bilingual street signage has risen from 48 per cent to 59 per cent. From 2006 to 2009, the number of non-Mäori who often or very often watched Mäori Television increased from 10 per cent to 26 per cent. The theme for Mäori Language week in 2010 was Te Mahi Kai, the ‘Language of Food’, which prompted many imaginative food-related activities throughout the country. The New Zealand curriculum for business studies includes a requirement for the study of Mäori business concepts. Students at level 7 must understand collective motivation and the importance of sustaining Mäori language and tikanga in Mäori business. Indigenous languages of Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific, as well as those of other cultural communities. It was noted that more than 125,000 Mäori and 40,000 Samoans now live in Australia.

Calls for all children to learn te reo Mäori at school

Alongside the release of the Waitangi Tribunal report, there have been increasing calls for te reo Mäori to become a core subject in the New Zealand curriculum. One organisation that supports this position is the New Zealand Educational Institute (NZEI), the primary and early childhood teachers’ union. Its Mäori Manager, Laures Park, said the Ministry of Education had never tried to tackle the shortage of te reo teachers relative to the demand. This issue needed to be addressed if compulsory te reo classes were to be achieved. In September, Te Ataarangi teaching group chair Rahera Shortland, a veteran teacher of te reo Mäori, said the time was right for the change, and developments such as Mäori Language Week had paved the way for wider acceptance. A survey of 500 people by Research New Zealand, published in August, found that 38 per cent of New Zealanders supported the idea of te reo Mäori teaching becoming compulsory in schools. This view is highest among the 15–34 year age group at 50 per cent, and lowest among the 55 years and over group, at 24 per cent. More females than males support the idea (42 per cent against 35 per cent). Only four per cent of respondents answered ‘don’t know’. Support for compulsory teaching of te reo Mäori in schools was highest among Mäori and Pacific people at 71 per cent, compared with 32 per cent for New Zealand Europeans. Auckland private school King’s College introduced Mäori as a core subject for all Year 9 students in 2010, although only eight per cent of students are of Mäori or Polynesian descent. At the end of the year, headmaster Bradley Fenner said the response to the programme from students and parents was positive. As an official language of New Zealand (along with New Zealand Sign Language and English), te reo Mäori can currently be studied as a first or additional language. It may also be the medium of instruction across all learning areas. To help support teachers, there are Curriculum Guidelines for Teaching and Learning Te Reo Mäori in English-medium Schools: Years 1–13: Te Aho Arataki Marau mö te Ako Te Reo Mäori – Kura Auraki The New Zealand Curriculum (2007) sets the direction for student learning in English-medium schools and provides guidance to self-managing schools as they design and review their curriculum. It is a framework that allows schools to design their own curriculum to best fit the needs of their students, including the teaching of te reo Mäori. Te Marautanga o Aotearoa (2009) sets the direction for student learning in kura and is taught in te reo Mäori. Te Marautanga o Aotearoa and the New Zealand Curriculum together comprise the national curriculum.

Local government moves

When the website for the new amalgamated Auckland Council went public in July, the Race Relations Commissioner expressed his disappointment that it was totally monolingual and failed to reflect the cultural and linguistic diversity of the Auckland region. This was particularly significant as the constituency of the new council was the most diverse in New Zealand: 45 per cent Mäori, Pacific, Asian and other non European ethnicity, and 37 per cent born overseas. He urged the new council to ensure that its services both reflected and were accessible to its diverse peoples, which should include the use of te reo Mäori and other languages spoken by major population groups. The Auckland Transition Agency (ATA) responded by saying that it had moved to incorporate a number of ethnic greetings and te reo. It noted: “Over time the new council may well include translation of key information and documents, but that is a policy decision for that organisation, not the Transition Agency.” In contrast, Environment Canterbury commissioners formally endorsed the dual use of Mäori place names with their European equivalents in August. Commissioner Donald Couch said: “The use of Mäori names enables Environment Canterbury to meet its requirements as agreed in the Ngäi Tahu Deed of Settlement 1997 and the Ngäi Tahu Claims Settlement Act 1998 and recognises the value of Environment Canterbury’s relationship with Ngäi Tahu as tangata whenua. “These Mäori place names are a symbol of Ngäi Tahu relationship with the landscape. It serves as a daily reminder of our history in Te Wai Pounamu (the South Island) as tangata whenua.” The Käpiti Coast District Council decided to add macrons to some of its place names. Council chief executive Pat Dougherty said that, after a meeting in 2009 with the council’s iwi partner, Te Whakaminenga o Käpiti, the council decided that macrons would be added to Ötaki, Paekäkäriki and Käpiti, to aid pronunciation. Macrons would be added to council signs, buildings, cars and documents over time. It would happen “very, very slowly” and there would be no cost to ratepayers.

Many councils had extensive programmes for Mäori Language Week. Auckland Museum, Wellington City Council, the former Auckland City Council and Dunedin Public Libraries were finalists in the Mäori Language Awards, with Auckland City Council taking out the prize. Christchurch City Council launched its revised ‘New to Christchurch’ guide for migrants on Race Relations Day in March. It was published in Thai and Nepali editions for the first time – in recognition of the number of new residents from Thailand, Bhutan and Nepal coming to Christchurch – as well as in Arabic, Chinese, English, Japanese and Korean. The former North Shore City Council published a trilingual booklet, Improving Your Property, in Korean, Chinese and English, explaining the legal requirements and rules for building and developing properties.

Samoan Language Week uses social media

The innovative use of social media was a feature of the highly successful Samoan Language Week in May. A Facebook page, which by year’s end had attracted more than 4000 fans in New Zealand, Australia, the United States and elsewhere, was one of the highlights of the week, and provided frequent updates and reactions to events and issues. It also prompted participation from Samoan groups in Sydney and Brisbane and support from the Australian Human Rights Commission, the Australian National Football League (AFL) and the Australian National Rugby League (NRL). Samoan AFL and NRL players were among those who contributed shout-outs on YouTube to encourage young people to participate. Principal partners in Samoan Language Week were the New Zealand Association of Samoan Language Teachers, the Human Rights Commission and the New Zealand National Commission for UNESCO. Other participants included Samoan community organisations, media, education providers, libraries, churches and government departments. Parliament expressed its support for the week on the motion of Samoan MP Su’a William Sio. A competition sponsored by Air New Zealand for the best activity posted on Facebook attracted many entries. It was won by Woodstock School in Hamilton – the entire school participated in the week even though it has only a small number of Samoan students.

Five people who pioneered the teaching and promotion of the Samoan language in New Zealand over the past four decades were honoured as the inaugural ‘Samoan Language Champions: Tautai o le gagana Samoa’. The focus was on those who worked in education. Champions from early childhood, primary, secondary, tertiary and community education were selected. They were:

  • Early childhood: Fereni Pepe Ete (Wellington)
  • Primary: Janice Taouma (Auckland)
  • Secondary: Toesulu Brown ONZM (Auckland)
  • Tertiary: Galumalemana Alfred Hunkin (Wellington)
  • Community: Tofaeono Tanuvasa Tavale (Auckland).

The awards were announced at the 21st anniversary celebrations for Samoan Studies at Victoria University.

Study highlights importance of language for Pacific heritage arts

The importance of language and the integrated nature of language and culture were key themes in a Creative New Zealand study on the health of Pacific heritage arts, published in June. The study found that “language was clearly an issue of concern” among the seven Pacific communities involved. The report said: “Virtually all of the key informants/focus groups expressed a belief that Pacific heritage arts practices cannot be engaged or taught in isolation from the language and culture of the people. The groups all emphasised that Pacific heritage arts are expressed and engaged primarily in a cultural context in which language provides layers of meaning through the art form. The heritage arts – whether dance, music, weaving, food or sport – were vehicles that helped to express a range of Pacific Island values, perspectives and cultural attitudes by way of the nuance of language.’’ The seven Pacific Island groups that participated in the research were Tuvalu, Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, Cook Islands, Tokelau and Niue.

Cuts to Pacific educational resources

The Ministry of Education announced in September that it was going to “pause” the production of the Tupu Pacific languages series and Fölauga, the Samoan school journal, from the end of 2010. The Tupu series were published in Samoan, Tokelauan, Tongan, Niuean and Cook Islands Mäori. One book per language was published per year and was supported by teacher support materials. The brief for the series was to support achievement in a Pacific language and help teachers support students in learning languages. The Ministry of Education is reviewing the effectiveness of Tupu and Fölauga in supporting English-medium schools to raise the literacy of their Pacific students. Once the review is complete, the ministry intends to resume producing some form of support materials. The pause was widely condemned by Pacific communities. A petition was organised urging the Government to “introduce and fully fund Pacific languages literacy and English literacy development through bilingual education programmes for Pacific students”. The Human Rights Commission received a number of complaints that the decision was discriminatory, and initiated a process of mediation between the complainants and the ministry.

Trilingual kindergarten opens in Porirua

Toru Fetü, the first purpose-built Pacific Island kindergarten in New Zealand, was opened in June. It was born out of the common goals of three existing playgroups based in Porirua East: Niue Aoga Tama Ikiiki, Te Punanga Reo Kuki Airani Porirua and Akoga Tuvalu. The name ‘Toru Fetü’ means ‘three stars’ and represents the three groups: Tuvalu, Niue and the Cook Islands. The vision for the new centre is to provide quality earlychildhood education for the local community based on nurturing and promoting the Niue, Cook Island and Tuvalu languages and cultures. The aim is to increase the number of children from Pacific backgrounds participating in highquality early-childhood education. Each group has its own cultural space, with an emphasis on coming together for shared play and meal times.

English Language Partners New Zealand (formerly ESOL Home Tutors)

Formerly ESOL Home Tutors, English Language Partners’ vision is that migrants and refugees have the opportunity to learn English, to pursue aspirations for themselves and their families, and to participate in all aspects of life in Aotearoa New Zealand. The national association is not-for-profit and works with migrants and refugees in 23 locations throughout the country. In 2010, English Language Partners’ work included running English language groups, ESOL-literacy training, English for Employees and one-to-one ESOL home tutoring to newcomers. These four national programmes delivered services to over 8000 learners (including 1700 ineligible for government funding) through 3000 volunteers and 250 professional teachers. The organisation built networks with other nongovernment organisations to work on improving settlement of newcomers. They also produced resources valuing community languages and worked in collaboration with government agencies to develop resources encouraging participation in Census 2011 and Election 2011. In 2010 English Language Partners voiced concern about the need to provide sufficient places for refugee English students in study programmes, and access for refugees to student loans. They would like to see official acknowledgment that monitoring the adequacy of English language tuition for refugees entering the country forms part of New Zealand’s international obligations and humanitarian commitment. English Language Partners’ Chief Executive Claire Szabó was named the 2010 Young Executive of the Year by the New Zealand Institute of Management.

Language Line extends its reach

The Government’s telephone interpreting service was made available to emergency phone lines in Christchurch following September’s earthquake in the city. Other new partners in 2010 were the Plunket Society, which supports parents of newborn children; St John’s Emergency Communications Limited (StJECL); and Central Emergency Communications Ltd (CECL). Together, StJCEL and CECL provide ambulance communication and co-ordination services throughout New Zealand. The Office of Ethnic Affairs is broadening Language Line’s reach through the various state-owned enterprises (SOEs). Genesis Energy signed up in October 2010 – the first SOE to do so. In December 2010, Filipino was added to the existing 40 languages provided by Language Line.

New Zealand Sign Language

Deaf Aotearoa’s Deaf Way report, published in February, highlighted the variable and poor communication access available to the 4000 or so Deaf New Zealanders. The report found a huge unmet need, not only for specific Deaf groups (such as migrants, elderly, children, deafblind) but for the whole Deaf population in terms of communication and social support. Specifically, it found a lack of regulation

of interpreter services and use of unqualified interpreters among government agencies. The Commission received six complaints and enquiries relating to New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL) in 2010. This is fewer than in the previous two years, with 11 approaches in 2009 and eight in 2008. But it is in line with the average number of approaches on NZSL between 2002 and 2010 of six per year. Three of the approaches related to access to NZSL interpreters in a variety of contexts, and the other two to access to NZSL in schools.

Thumbs up! is an online learning tool developed by the Ministry of Education. It is for year 7 and 8 students in English-medium schools working at curriculum levels 1 and 2. It is part of the Learning Languages Series for teachers and students who are new to language learning. Visit The website contains information about Deaf culture, NZSL units, video clips and a series of worksheets for students.

Human Rights Review: areas for action

Human Rights in New Zealand 2010 – Ngä Tika Tangata O Aotearoa identified the following areas for action on languages:


Developing and implementing a national languages policy and dedicated strategies for Mäori, Pacific and community languages and interpreting and translation services.

New Zealand Sign Language

Developing a mechanism to promote the maintenance and development of NZSL, including competency standards for interpreters and educators and promoting respect for NZSL to all New Zealanders.


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