Jacinda Ardern says not learning te reo Māori one of her 'great regrets'

Jacinda Ardern wants her generation to be the last not to speak te reo Māori.

Speaking at Wellington High School to mark the beginning of Māori Language Week, the Prime Minister told students that she regrets not being able to speak New Zealand's indigenous tongue.

"It is one of my great regrets for a lot of reasons," she said.

"I want my generation to be amongst the last who struggles with that. I don't want the next generation, your generation, to have the regret I have about not being able to converse more freely in te reo Māori."

She said her Government hopes that by 2040, at least 1 million Kiwis will be able to share and see basic concepts in Te Reo.

The Prime Minister thanked the school, where all Year 9 students are taught Te Reo, for being part of an "enormous generational change".

"Thank you for being amongst a group of firsts who I hope will walk away with a skill that so many in my generation never had, and now regret."

She said language helps with education as a whole, and that it makes sense to teach young New Zealanders our own indigenous language.

"I feel that we have a guardianship role, we have a duty of care to te reo Māori. It's our job to make sure we nurture it because it is about more than just language."

She encouraged students to become teachers as the country currently doesn't have enough who are able to teach Te Reo.

When taking questions from students, she said that she wants her three-month-old daughter Neve to learn Māori.

"If I have a regret, it's incumbent on me to make sure she doesn't have that regret."

She said she and partner Clarke Gayford are already trying to incorporate Te Reo into Neve's first books so she can grow up with the language her parents never learned.

"She, one day, will teach me - and that will be a beautiful thing," she said. "Or she will correct me."

In August the Prime Minister told Māori Television that she "certainly" wants Neve to learn Te Reo but had not yet made any decisions around how that would happen.