9 May 2018

Ministers rebuked over te reo Māori stance

6:54 pm on 9 May 2018

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is playing down differences between her ministers over whether to make te reo Māori compulsory in schools.

Prime Minister Jackinda Ardern.

Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

Māori Development Minister Nanaia Mahuta caused a stir this week when she said it was just a matter of time before te reo was compulsory in schools.

The government's official policy is that te reo Māori be universally available - but not compulsory - in all primary schools by 2025.

Ms Ardern said Ms Mahuta had been talking about future possibilities, not current government policy.

"Right now, we simply do not have enough te reo teachers to even have that aspiration."

She insisted all her ministers were on the same page.

Associate Māori Development Minister Willie Jackson made a slip-up on the same topic late last year, saying he thought the language would be compulsory in schools by 2025.

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters was reported on Tuesday as having issued a sharp rebuke towards both Ms Mahuta and Mr Jackson.

"If they want to be in this government, they'll be on the same page," Mr Peters told Stuff.

Today, Mr Peters told reporters he was just making clear that the ministers' aspirations were not government policy.

"People can be enthusiastic and they can push policies and they probably can campaign on them in 2020 - but it's not a policy that we are campaigning on or implementing now.

Deputy Prime Minister and leader of New Zealand First Winston Peters fields questions from journalists at Parliament. 10 April 2018

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters Photo: VNP / Daniela Maoate-Cox

"They need to make sure that it's not portrayed as present government policy."

Ms Ardern said she was comfortable with Mr Peters' slap-down.

"Our ministers are all very robust. We have these decent exchanges from time to time," she said.

"I'm not concerned by our relationships whatsoever ... I have no concerns about those exchanges."

Ms Mahuta said the government ministers were not divided.

"We're absolutely agreed ... that our education curriculum has everything to gain by ensuring we have Māori teachers who can teach the curriculum in te reo Māori," she said.

"That will undoubtedly make te reo Māori a language that is accessible to many New Zealanders - and I want to see that."

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