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Denise Roche speaks on the Māori Language (Te Reo Māori) Bill, first reading

Denise Roche MP
Denise Roche MP
denise [dot] roche [at] parliament [dot] govt [dot] nz (Email)
"We too look forward to a time when all our tamariki Māori are fluent in Te Reo Māori, when all New Zealanders can use at least some Te Reo, where we can arohatia Te Reo".
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E ngā mana, e ngā reo, e ngā waka, e rau rangatira mā, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa. Ngā mihi nui ki a koutou e Te Whare i Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori.

[Acknowledgments to you authorities, voices, canoes and esteemed ones, tributes and salutations to you all. In regards to the week of the Māori language, huge greetings to you the House.]

Tēnā koe, Mr Deputy Speaker. It is right to be speaking on this bill, Māori Language (Te Reo Māori) Bill, I think, in Te Wiki o Te Reo, and also, I think, at the end of the month of Matariki, which is of course, a time to reflect on the past and a time to plan for the future.

So I salute the Minister of Māori Affairs, Pita Sharples, for his efforts in bringing this to the House today, so that Parliament can actually speak bout Te Reo—the importance of Te Reo, and the legacy that we want our children to have in the future with having access to Te Reo.

We understand that the purpose of this bill is to implement the Government's Te Reo Māori ora Māori language strategy. The bill proposes to replace the Māori Language Act 1987, to amend the Broadcasting Act 1989, and amend the Māori Television Service (Te Aratuku Whakaata Irirangi Māori) Act 2003. The bill establishes a new agency, Te Mātāwai, as an independent statutory entity to provide leadership on behalf of iwi and Māori in their role as kaitiaki of the Māori language, and for the roles of Te Taura Whiri, the Māori Language Commission, and Te Māngai Pāho, the Māori Broadcasting Funding Agency, to continue under the leadership of Te Mātāwai. Te Pūtahi Paoho, the Māori Television Electoral College, is disestablished under this bill, and its functions are also transferred to Te Mātāwai. The membership of Te Mātāwai is proposed to be seven appointed people who are geographically determined across clusters of iwi, three by Māori language stakeholder Te Reo Tukutuku, and two by the Crown.

Although the bill's aspirational objective of affirming and strengthening Te Reo Māori as a taonga, of which iwi and Māori are kaitiaki, is laudable, there are considerable concerns among iwi and Māori that the bill will fail to achieve this. I will outline those concerns in a moment, but I should be clear that the Green Party is opposing this bill. We are not convinced that the changes proposed will improve access to or development of Te Reo. I note that this concern is shared in other parts of the House too.

There is very little evidence to show that a change in the leadership body is the answer to the real and serious concerns about the strength and economic development of Te Reo. We are compelled by the concerns that were raised from the Te Puni Kōkiri consultation process. The consultation process on the draft strategy that led to the bill was a small number of hui over 11 days in February and we consider that that was inadequate. I note the point that Te Ururoa Flavell made that by passing this bill through its first reading it will go to select committee, but we believe in appropriate decision making, and we believe there should have been fuller consultation before the bill came to the House.

A Waitangi Tribunal claim, Wai 2441, which is being brought by the New Zealand Māori Council, claiming that it should have been consulted on the strategy but were not. We are also concerned that some iwi wish to assert their Tiriti relationship with Te Reo with the Crown directly, not through an agency such as Te Mātāwai, which is seen by many as a pan-tribal agency.

I note the concerns that the speaker before me, Kelvin Davis, has outlined in terms of the hapū up north. We are also concerned that the appointment process to Te Mātāwai involves artificially clustered geographical groups of iwi, who, in some cases, will have considerable difficulty working together to appoint a member that is acceptable to all iwi in the cluster.

We have said before, during the progress of the legislation for Treaty settlements, that we have had concerns about the fact that the Crown chooses whom it will negotiate with and with whom it will not by clustering iwi and hapū together and choosing some who are in and some who are out, and that it is divisive. We have the same concerns with this bill.

We are further concerned about the funding for the promotion of Te Reo, which will be negotiated between Te Mātawai and the Crown, rather than provided on a basis of evidence. We are concerned that this means that the Crown will actually not base its judgments on evidence but base it on whatever it chooses as its criteria at the time. Using pūtea, using money, as a way to determine outcomes is another form of control.

We are also concerned at the loss of the independent Crown entity status for Te Taura Whiri and Te Māngai Pāho, that this may make them more subject to political influence. We have already seen the politicisation of our public service; we do not want to see it happening to the agencies that are set up to save, protect, and promote Te Reo Māori.

So how, then, does this reorganisation resolve the core concerns about the promotion and the development of Te Reo? Where is the commitment to the resources and the prioritisation of the reo by Government, given that the Government will maintain financial control of this?

We too look forward to a time when all our tamariki Māori are fluent in Te Reo Māori, when all New Zealanders can use at least some Te Reo, where we can arohatia Te Reo. It is the birthright of our children to have clean rivers and beaches to swim in, and it is their birthright to have the language of Aotearoa New Zealand accessible to them. We can have a smarter, cleaner, fairer New Zealand where Te Reo can thrive and flourish, and we agree that Parliament can be doing much more to facilitate that. But, unfortunately, this bill is not it.

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