Nanaia Mahuta won't back down over te reo Māori in schools

The Government is divided on compulsory Te Reo in schools, but Nanaia Mahuta is refusing to back down.

The Māori Development Minister went on The AM Show on Wednesday to argue it's just "a matter of time".

"It's not if, it's when," she told host Duncan Garner.

"A lot more New Zealanders - non-Māori - are speaking Te Reo because they know it's a way to engage with the Māori economy."

Associate Māori Development Minister Willie Jackson made similar comments last year. However they both have come under fire from NZ First leader Winston Peters, who has categorically ruled it out for the immediate future.

"Look, we're a coalition. We had serious negotiations. We signed up to things. My side is going to stick to the deal," he told The AM Show on Wednesday.

"Now, I like these people. I don't disagree with what they might say in terms of their aspirations. But don't please put out then, in front of the public as a policy, something that's not agreed by us."

Mr Peters says it's not a telling-off.

"People get enthusiastic all the time. If you haven't got enthusiasm what have you got? I'd rather have enthusiasm and a slight telling off now and again than a lack of enthusiasm and total inertia."

Ms Mahuta might also face an uphill battle in her own party. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says that while she will commit to making the language "universally available", she won't make it compulsory.

The Green Party is pushing for compulsory te reo Māori in schools, but its Confidence and Supply agreement with Labour lacks any reference to compulsory education.

Ms Mahuta acknowledges it's a "huge challenge", but says the first step is to "build the pool of teachers".

"In terms of our education system, we can do some really valuable things now. The first step will be to build the pool of teachers who can teach across all curriculum areas in te reo Māori," she says.

"I am encouraged by the direction the Minister of Education is taking to ensure that there is teachers' supply, which includes Māori teachers."