Wellington welcomes inaugural Maori language parade
Students, politicians and office workers joined forces to celebrate the start of Te Wiki o te Reo Maori (Maori language week).
More than 4000 people joined the hikoi through Wellington, from Parliament to Te Papa, with singing, haka, speeches and, most importantly, kai.
In colourful dress, tamariki from kohanga and creches stood alongside equally colourful parliamentarians. High school students performed passionate haka, welcoming the hikoi as it arrived at Te Papa.
Parade host Stacey Morrison said the event was about encouraging tamariki to embrace te reo.
A diverse cast of people led the parade, including All Black Nehe Milner-Skudder, Hunt for the Wilderpeople actor Julian Dennison, and Maori Development Minister Te Ururoa Flavell.
The minister said it was important to celebrate and bring attention to the Maori language.
"The fact is that Maori language, the number of speakers of Maori language, is slowly declining. This is about giving it a kick start and a new approach."
Flavell hoped to see Maori language week expand to a whole month or year, until speaking Maori became natural.
"Maori language week came about from a petition, from a hikoi... It went on to have one day, now it's on to one week. The hope is we keep building."
Between 2006 and 2013, the proportion of Maori who could speak te reo fell from 26.1 per cent to 21.3 per cent. The census showed that about 3.7 per cent of the overall New Zealand population could speak te reo.
Milner-Skudder, who is learning te reo, said he was at the parade because he wanted to see the language remain a part of the culture.
"Being a New Zealander, that's our identity. When we go around the world, that's something special that we can hold on to."
Maori Language Commission CEO, Ngahiwi Apanui wanted "wider New Zealand" to become involved.
"Our job is to tell wider New Zealand that actually, yes, you do have a place in the revitalisation of te reo Maori."