20 Aug 2014

Decline in NZ born Pacific language speakers

4:15 pm on 20 August 2014

A New Zealand academic says the declining numbers of New Zealand born Pacific language speakers shows the languages are facing extinction.

Data released by Statistics New Zealand from the 2013 census shows the number of Pacific language speakers has decreased for Cook Islands, Niuean, Tokelauan, Samoan and Tongan people by as much as 7 percent since the 2006 census.

A senior education lecturer at Auckland University, John McCaffery, says the number of Pacific language speakers was low to start with and it is getting worse.

"Only 3-point-6 percent of the New Zealand born Cook Island population can now speak Cook Island Maori and when you get only 3 percent receiving the language from their parents it means that in essence, they are already extinct, because that generation are unable to be speakers anymore."

John McCaffery says the community cannot preserve the languages without support and the New Zealand Government should implement pilot programmes to help the languages survive.