Simon Bridges will 'never' support compulsory Māori in schools

The National Party's first Māori leader doesn't think the language should be compulsory in schools.

The Government has set a goal of 1 million speakers of Te Reo by 2040, and is currently taking public submissions on its draft strategy to achieve it.

"Te reo Māori is clearly something New Zealanders really care about," says Māori Development Minister Nanaia Mahuta.

"That certainly doesn't mean the responses are all in agreement. We're getting a diverse range of opinions, from a diverse range of people. It's wonderful."

Ms Mahuta says many of the submissions have touched on the role teachers will play in revitalising the language, which according to the Ministry for Culture and Heritage's NZ History website came close to dying out in the mid-20th century.

The Greens want Māori to be a compulsory subject in schools up to year 10, and while it's not Labour policy, Education Minister Chris Hipkins has expressed support in the past.

But with National likely to take the reins again sometime between 2020 and 2040, it's unlikely Māori will stay a core subject alongside English and maths, should it become one.

"I don't support compulsory, never will," Simon Bridges told The AM Show on Monday.

"I think it's great there's a renaissance in the language, that more and more people are seeing the importance of it. I think what's really pleasing is people are doing this off their own bat.

"My children, it's amazing - they can speak Te Reo much better than I can, and actually a bit of Mandarin. That's great - but not compulsory."


A non-scientific poll of The AM Show viewers and listeners found 69 percent - more than two-thirds - agree with Mr Bridges.

Statistics NZ data shows only 23 percent of students learn Te Reo in school, either as a subject or in a total immersion environment.