Bill change recognises Crown's damage to Te Reo

Bill change recognises Crown's damage to Te Reo

There's support for a change to a Government Bill to acknowledge the damage of past Crown policies and stance around the speaking of Te Reo Māori.

The amendment to the Māori Language Bill was introduced by Māori Development Minister Te Ururoa Flavell today and has the backing of Labour and National.

Mr Flavell says it will show the Crown recognises it "contributed to the decline in Māori language and its previous actions have had a negative impact on our language and culture".

"Māori are familiar with the painful memories recalled by our grandparents' and parents' generations who were discouraged, and in some cases physically abused, for speaking Te Reo Māori at school or in public places.

"I hope the statement goes some way to acknowledging the pain and loss suffered as a result of successive Crown policies that have denied and suppressed our right to use Te Reo Māori," Mr Flavell says.

Attorney General and Minister in charge of Treaty of Waitangi negotiations Chris Finlayson says he's happy with the proposal, but thinks a blanket apology undermines the individual ones he's delivered to iwi when they reach settlement.

"You don't need a generic apology in the Māori Language Act because the apologies are drawn from particular historical events I've covered in deeds of settlement and in particular settlement legislation.

"I'm pleased with the acknowledgement and with the forward-looking statement in the Māori Party amendment."

He believes the best way is to apologise on an individual basis.

Prime Minister John Key says the amendment is recognition the Crown hadn't met its obligation in terms of preserving the language.

The amendment has also been welcomed from Labour's Māori development spokesman Kelvin Davis, who said there should be an apology for the way Māori were punished for speaking their language.

"I don't think necessarily the iwi-by-iwi approach actually apologises directly for what's happened in terms of Te Reo and that's what this Bill is about."

He says the policies contributed to a "forgotten generation" of Te Reo speakers, and says being able to speak the language is vital to Māori.

"If we don't have Māori as a language then we really aren't Māori. I think it's essential; it's just the life-force of being Māori. If the language dies then the world has lost a taonga, a treasure."

Mr Flavell says the amendment is consistent with evidence at Waitangi Tribunal hearings and Treaty settlement deeds which record the specific impact the Crown's actions had on several iwi.

He maintains the proposed change isn't a way to address all historic grievances around Te Reo Māori, but is more "forward-looking".

It says the Crown will work with iwi and Māori to actively protect and promote the language.