Mana Party: Make Maori compulsory

MICHAEL FOX
Last updated 17:08 24/07/2014

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Mana wants to see Maori made compulsory in all schools and more funding for Maori immersion schools in a bid to save the language.

Annette Sykes has also sharply criticised the proposed Maori Language Strategy and wants the legislation to be put before the Waitangi Tribunal to see if it breaches the Treaty of Waitangi.

A bill championed by Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples that will create a new entity to try and rejuvenate te reo has its first reading in Parliament this week - Maori Language Week.

But the Maori Language Bill has been criticised for not having been tested by the Waitangi Tribunal. Opponents say there is a lack of information about how the strategy - aimed at putting responsibility for the language in the hands of Maori - will work.

Launching Mana's te reo policy today, Sykes, Mana's Waiariki candidate, said the party believed the bill contravened the Treaty and wanted it tested.

She was "deeply concerned that Honourable Pita Sharples is using this week, the week of te reo Maori, to disestablish so much that we've set up without any certainty of what might replace it".

"I think it's unconscionable that anyone would move to take the Maori Language Act off our statute books given the history of struggle," she said.

"It's unconscionable that they do that without first referring it to the Waitangi Tribunal for its consideration."

The Crown should not be able to offload its responsibilities for the promotion of te reo which would happen under the bill, she said.

"If you transfer all of those obligations outside of the Parliamentary structure you actually get Parliament off the hook."

But Sharples' strategy does have significant support.

Four of New Zealand's five largest iwi, Ngapuhi, Ngai Kahungunu, Ngati Porou and Waikato-Tainui, have backed it.

Chairman of Waikato-Tainui tribal executive Te Arataura Rahui Papa has said the strategy gave iwi the opportunity to lead revitalisation efforts.

Ngati Kahungunu has said devolving responsibility for te reo back to iwi was "a major step to re-energising and exercising those language rights back to whanau and hapu".

Mana, as part of its Maori language strategy, also wants the Maori Language Commission, Te Taura Whiri i te reo Maori, to remain the lead agency for language with authority to oversee the Maori language strategy and to enforce compliance.

Funding should also be made available to communities to try and boost the language, while there should be more funding to boost the number of Kohanga Reo and Kura Kaupapa and to pay teachers more to retain them.

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Sykes said they also wanted to see te reo made compulsory in schools and given the same prominence as core subjects such as English and maths, saying students would benefit from learning more than one language.

"I think it will make us better citizens of the world," Sykes said.

Broadcasters, especially in Pakeha media, should also learn to pronounce Maori correctly as this had a flow-on effect to the wider public.

Sharples has also called for Maori to be made compulsory in schools.

The total number of Maori able to speak the language dropped from 25 per cent in 1996 to 21.3 per cent in 2013.

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