Maori language bill passes final hurdle: what does it do?

The Maori Party bill to promote the Maori language passed on Thursday evening.
KEVIN STENT

The Maori Party bill to promote the Maori language passed on Thursday evening.

The bilingual Te Reo Maori bill passed its final reading amid hopes it would 'revitalise' the language.

In a country first, the Maori version of the bill would take precedent over the English version if there was any contention.

The purpose of the Maori Party legislation was to provide leadership and strategy for the language, as the number of speakers has declined.

There was a 4.8 per cent decrease in those who could hold an everyday conversation in Maori from 2006 to 2013, according to census data.

Maori Development Minister Te Ururoa Flavell wanted both Maori and non-Maori to take up the language. 

"This bill is about everybody in this country and about making sure we save our language."

The country was "warming slowly", he said, giving an example of having the Maori national anthem sung at international events. In 1999 there was a public outcry against Hinewehi Mohi singing the Maori version at a Rugby World Cup game in Twickenham. Now it's commonplace.

A new strategy would involve setting targets for the number of speakers of Maori.

So could this stop the downward spiral? Let's look at what the bill will do... 

It affirms Te Reo Maori as a taonga (treasure).

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The bill acknowledges how the Crown has historically "denied and suppressed" the right of Maori to use their own language, said Flavell.

Now the language is formally valued by the nation.

It also highlights iwi and Maori as official kaitaki (guardians) of the language.

It sets up a new independent Maori language entity.

Te Matawai will help the Government develop Maori language strategies to increase uptake. This means focusing on increasing fluency as well as the number of people who speak it.

There will be 13 members on the board: seven from iwi, four from Maori language stakeholder organisations, and two chosen by the Maori Development Minister.

Government ministers of Maori Development, Education, Finance and Culture and Heritage would meet with iwi stakeholders to discuss priorities.

Te Matawai will control some functions of other Maori agencies.

Te Matawai will take over its functions from the Maori Television Electoral College, which manages stakeholder interests in Maori Television.

The Maori Language Commission will still exist to focus on Government initiatives. However, the responsibility for $7.5million funding of community programmes research will eventually move to Te Matawai.

The Maori broadcasting funder, Te Mangai Paho, will have recommendations on three out of five board members to be nominated to the Minister by the new agency. Its functions remain the same.

Stakeholder interests in Maori Television will be managed by the new agency, taking over from Te Putahi Paoho (the Maori Television Electoral College). It will be disestablished.

 - Stuff

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