Maori Language Bill passed


The Māori Language Bill has been passed by Parliament and includes a New Zealand-first.

The Bill was written in Māori and English with a provision that if there were any debate regarding interpretation, the Māori version would take precedence.

Māori Development Minister Te Ururoa Flavell said unlike the Treaty of Waitangi, there would be no room for confusion.

"We remember about the Treaty of Waitangi and the discussion about that. Now there is no dispute because it is a part of law, and that's huge in terms of the profile of Māori language in this country," Mr Flavell said.  

A number of iwi and Māori language pioneers attended the third reading. As speeches drew to a close, a Māori waiata filled the debating chamber, which spoke of the language being a treasure that must be protected and encouraged.   

"It was pretty humbling to know that the people that turned out today those are some of the faces and the advocates for Māori language over the many years."  

The new legislations replaces the 1987 Māori Language Act.

It will see iwi driving language revitalisation at a local level, with the Crown focusing its efforts on national issues.

Iwi and the Crown will work off two new Māori language strategies which have legislative status in the Bill.

A new independent statutory entity, Te Mātāwai, will be established to provide leadership on behalf of iwi and Māori, while also supporting and influencing the Crown's initiatives.

Te Mātāwai will be made up of 13 members.

Under the new legislation the Māori Language Commission, Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori, remains as an autonomous Crown entity.

Te Taura Whiri will help lead the Crown's Māori language strategy. About $7.5 million of language funding will be transferred from Te Taura Whiri to Te Mātāwai.

Mr Flavell says he hopes the new law will be a catalyst for major change.

"The Māori side, through Te Mātāwai, will have to lead a strategy around Te Reo Māori, as will the Crown. Together they will sit at the one table which will be about the absolute promotion of Te Reo Māori across the country, in which case everybody wins."

The challenge ahead includes boosting the number of Māori language speakers.

According to Statistics New Zealand, between 2006 and 2013 there was a drop of 4.8 percent in the number of people who could speak the language.

"Māori will have just as much responsibility as the Crown. Everything does not rest with one party by itself. Everybody's apart of this game and it is a game we hope will bring benefits for Te Reo Māori amongst the next generation of New Zealanders."

The Māori Television Electoral College, Te Pūtahi Paoho, will be disestablished with Te Mātāwai picking up its functions, including appointing four of the seven directors of the Māori Television Service Board.