As we bask in Te Wiki o te reo Māori (Māori Language Week), it is worthwhile considering the proposals in relation to te reo Māori in the WAI 262 report, the government’s recent response and proposals, and the potential impact on the recognition and protection of mātauranga Māori.
Government’s response to the WAI 262 report
The government recently announced it is developing a whole-of-government approach, called Te Pae Tawhiti, to address the issues raised by the WAI 262 claim and the Waitangi Tribunal report, Ko Aotearoa Tēnei.
The proposed structure for reviewing and responding to the recommendations in the WAI 262 report includes a ministerial oversight group, which will oversee three ministerial work groups responsible for different workstreams:
Kete 1 Taonga works me te Mātauranga Māori
Kete 2 Taonga species me te Mātauranga Māori
Kete 3 Kawenata Aorere/Kaupapa Aorere.
No timeframe is provided for the workstreams at this stage, and the report indicates the scale of the work required could take years.
Māori, stakeholders, and interested parties will be asked to comment on this proposed structure over the next two months, with the structure to be finalised before the end of the year.
Review of Te Ture mō Te Reo Māori (Māori Language Act)
As part of the workstreams anticipated in Kete 1 Taonga works me te Mātauranga Māori, the government indicates there will be a review of Te Ture mō Te Reo Māori 2016 (Māori Language Act 2016).
I summarise below the recommendations in relation to reo Māori in the WAI 262 report, the changes that have happened since the report issued, what we are likely to see as part of this review, and the impacts for the protection of mātauranga Māori.
WAI 262 report’s recommendations for te reo Māori
The WAI 262 report provided a brief history of te reo Māori, including the decline in use of the language from colonisation through to the 1970s, the resurrection of te reo Māori due to the efforts of Māori from the 1970s through to the early 1990s, and the subsequent decline in Māori language use until the report issued in 2011.
The WAI 262 report confirmed that:
- ‘Te reo Māori is a taonga. It is the platform upon which mātauranga Māori stands, and the means by which Māori culture and identity are expressed.’
- ‘The survival of te reo Māori is no longer just of deep interest to Māori people – it is a matter of national pride and identity for all New Zealanders. Everybody wins when the Māori language thrives.’
- ‘Partnership in the context of te reo should be a true joint venture. If at the strategic and policy-formulation level the Crown must reach out to Māori, then Māori must also reach out to the Crown. They must step up to take a leading role in building the vision.’
- ‘All of this means, in our view, that in the competition for Crown resources, te reo Māori must take a ‘reasonable degree of preference’.’
The WAI 262 report made a number of recommendations to give effect to these statements:
- Te Taura Whiri i te reo Māori (Te Taura Whiri) be revamped and become the lead Māori language sector agency.
- Te Taura Whiri functions as a Crown–Māori partnership through the equal appointment of Crown and Māori appointees to its board.
- Te Taura Whiri have greater powers, including the authority to require and approve Māori language plans of:
- all central government agencies
- all local authorities, district health boards, and regional branches of central government in local body districts where the census shows a sufficient number and/or percentage of te reo speakers in the population
- all state-funded schools (other than kura kaupapa and other immersion schools) with at least 75 students, of whom at least 25 per cent are Māori
- all state broadcasters, as well as any other broadcasters drawing on Te Māngai Pāho funds.
- Te Taura Whiri have the authority to:
- approve all early childhood, primary and secondary curricula involving te reo, as well as all level 1–3 tertiary te reo courses
- set targets for the training of Māori language and Māori-medium teachers and require and approve plans from teacher training institutions showing how they will meet these targets.
Both the authorities and agencies in districts that meet the speaker threshold, and schools that have the required Māori student population, consult with local iwi in the formulation of their plan.
Te Taura Whiri offer a dispute-resolution service to kōhanga and kura whānau to ensure the occasional conflicts that occur disrupt children’s learning as little as possible.
- Introduce an ability for any kōhanga reo within any iwi’s rohe to secede from the Kōhanga Reo National Trust and come under the control of the local iwi authority if certain conditions are met and there is a desire in that rohe.
What has happened since WAI 262 issued?
In 2016, Te Ture mō Te Reo Māori was passed and introduced a slightly different regime to that envisaged in WAI 262.
Te Ture mō Te Reo Māori confirms te reo Māori is a taonga of iwi and Māori, iwi and Māori are the kaitiaki, and that te reo Māori is an official language of New Zealand.
The Act establishes Te Mātāwai, an independent statutory entity to provide leadership on behalf of iwi and Māori in their role as kaitiaki of the Māori language.
Te Mātāwai is also responsible for working with the Crown to develop Māori language strategies to support the revitalisation of te reo Māori, including increasing the number of people speaking te reo Māori and improving fluency.
The first strategy is a Maihi Karauna strategy, which sets out the Government’s objectives and policies relevant to the revitalisation of te reo Māori, and the long-term strategic direction to support the revitalisation of te reo Māori. When developing this strategy, the government must consult Te Mātāwai and Te Taura Whiri. Te Taura Whiri is tasked with coordinating and monitoring the implementation of the Maihi Karauna Strategy and will also support Māori language planning.
The second strategy is a Maihi Māori strategy that is lead, developed, approved, and administered by Te Mātāwai, which sets out objectives, policies, and related matters for iwi and Māori, relevant to Māori, and to support the revitalisation of te reo Māori.
Te Mātāwai has other responsibilities such as responsibility for nominations to the boards of and oversight of the work carried out by Te Taura Whiri and the Māori Television Service.
Te Ture mō Te Reo Māori sets out a number of guiding principles for the interpretation of the Act and for the development of the Māori language strategies required under this Act:
- The Māori language is the indigenous language of New Zealand.
- The Māori language has inherent mana and is enduring.
Māori language and iwi and Māori
- Iwi and Māori are the kaitiaki of the Māori language.
- The Māori language is the foundation of Māori culture and identity.
- knowledge and use of the Māori language enhance the lives of iwi and Māori.
- knowledge and use of the Māori language are sustained though transmission of the language from generation to generation among whānau and by daily communication in the community.
Māori language and the Crown
- The Māori language is protected as a taonga by article 2 of the Treaty of Waitangi.
- The Crown recognises the value of the Māori language for the people of New Zealand.
- Knowledge and use of the Māori language are promoted by an active partnership of the Crown with iwi and Māori through Te Mātāwai.
- The Crown is able to advance the revitalisation of the Māori language by promoting strategic objectives in the wider New Zealand society.
Māori language and New Zealand society
- The Māori language is an official language of New Zealand.
- The Māori language is important to the identity of New Zealand.
In July 2017, the government also funded just over 280 scholarships for Māori immersion and te reo Māori teachers.
And in August 2018, the government set the following goals as part of its Maihi Karauna strategy:
- 85% of New Zealanders will value te reo Māori as a key part of national identity.
- One million New Zealanders can speak basic te reo Māori by 2040.
- 150,000 Māori aged 15 and over will use te reo Māori as much as English.
- All departments of the public service have a te reo Māori language plan by 30 June 2021.
- All departments of the public service reflect te reo Māori language in their accountability documents including Annual Reports and Strategic Intentions.
What will be included in the WAI 262 review of Te Ture mō Te Reo Māori?
Te Ture mō Te Reo Māori introduced a new partnership structure between the Crown, iwi and Māori to assist with the recognition, protection, and revitalisation of te reo Māori. This structure places responsibilities on the Crown, Te Mātāwai, and Te Taura Whiri to implement the Maihi Karauna and Maihi Māori strategies. These strategies align with some of the recommendations on te reo Māori in the WAI 262 report.
But the following recommendations are not fully addressed.
- The structure does not implement a requirement for Māori language plans to be developed by all local authorities, all district health boards, all state-funded schools, and all state-funded broadcasters.
- The structure does not give Te Mātawai or Te Taura Whiri the ability to influence the teaching of te reo Māori in our educational facilities.
- There is no requirement for local schools to consult with local iwi on teachings of te reo Māori in different rohe.
- The government has committed a small amount to the development of teachers in te reo Māori and Māori immersion, but this investment has not satisfied the demand, and no targets have been set.
- The recommended dispute resolution service has not been developed.
- There is also no recognition of the need to secede the teaching of te reo in different rohe to local iwi or hapū.
With the establishment of Te Mātāwai and the extended responsibilities of Te Taura Whiri, the government has invested in the recognition, protection, and revitalisation of te reo Māori.
But has the government given sufficient preference to this investment and has enough been done to stop the decline of te reo speakers?
At the very least, the WAI 262 review should consider these recommendations as well.
What are the possible implications for mātauranga Māori?
As stated above, the WAI 262 report recognised that:
‘Te reo Māori is a taonga. It is the platform upon which mātauranga Māori stands, and the means by which Māori culture and identity are expressed.’
If te reo Māori is the platform, and there is still some work to do to recognise and protect the platform, then the current structure will not provide sufficient recognition and protection for mātauranga Maori, Māori culture, or Māori identity.
Other comments in the WAI 262 report on the protection and recognition of mātauranga Māori are set out below.
- Taonga works and mātauranga Maori should be legally protected.
- Kaitiaki also have valid rights in respect of the mātauranga Māori associated with their taonga species … kaitiaki are entitled to acknowledgement and to have a reasonable degree of control over their mātauranga Māori.
- Most of the surviving examples of the natural environment in which mātauranga Māori evolved are under DOC control. … Given the importance of the environment under DOC control to the survival of the Māori culture, Treaty principle requires that partnership and shared decision-making between the department and kaitiaki must be the default approach to conservation management. Within that overall partnership framework, decisions can be made case-by-case about management of individual taonga, taking into account the interests of kaitiaki, the interests of the taonga themselves, and other interests.
- Protecting and transmitting mātauranga Māori is a responsibility shared between Māori and the Crown: neither party can succeed without the help of the other.
- It [the Crown] must work in genuine partnership with Māori to support rongoā and rongoā services. … We also recommend that, given the extent of environmental degradation and the challenges of access to the remaining bush, the Department of Conservation and the Ministry of Health coordinate over rongoā policy. Mātauranga rongoā cannot be supported if there are no rongoā rākau left, or at least none that tohunga rongoā can access.
The government has identified other work in its proposed response to WAI 262 that is needed to support the recognition and protection of mātauranga Māori including:
- developing a partnership approach to laws, policies and decisions affecting taonga works and mātauranga Māori, taonga species and mātauranga Māori
- creating a space for kaitiaki to exercise kaitiakitanga over taonga works and mātauranga Māori, taonga species and mātauranga Māori
- defining Crown roles in respect of taonga works and mātauranga Māori, taonga species and mātauranga Māori
- developing a new legal framework for the use and protection of taonga works and mātauranga Māori
- improving information about taonga species and mātauranga Māori
- transitioning issue-by-issue approach to a relationship-based Māori-Crown dialogue on taonga species and mātauranga Māori.
The scope and breadth of the response to WAI 262 cannot be underestimated, as can be seen from these comments on the anticipated review of Te Ture mō Te Reo Māori. Each review is likely to be far-reaching and cross-over other areas under review. For that reason, it will take courage, new thinking, new frameworks, and time.
In the meantime, mātauranga Māori continues to be misused and misappropriated.
We need to continue the work that has been started to strengthen te reo Māori—our platform, and work together to create, develop, and inform frameworks that recognise and protect not only te reo Māori, but also mātauranga Māori.
Kia kaha te reo Māori!
 We briefly review the WAI 262 claim and the government’s proposal in this article.