7 Jul 2014

Refer language bill to tribunal - council

7:26 pm on 7 July 2014

The Maori Council wants legislation to create a Maori language governance entity to be referred to the Waitangi Tribunal instead of going through Parliament.

Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples has tabled the bill in Parliament to create a new entity to rejuvenate te reo.

The new entity, Te Matawai, will be made up of 12 people, including seven iwi leaders.

But the Maori Council said Dr Sharples did not consult appropriately and had overridden many who disagreed with the new proposed structure.

Council co-chair Maanu Paul said he wanted the legislation to be put in front of the Waitangi Tribunal so it could decide whether it was a good project.

Under the 1975 Treaty of Waitangi Act, the tribunal can examine proposed legislation referred to it and report back if the bill goes against principles of Te Tiriti.

Meanwhile, Labour Party described the bill as a rushed and cynical political tactic by the Maori Party heading into a general election.

Dr Sharples had said the Maori Language Bill would allow the responsibility for nurturing Te Reo to be given back to Maori.

But Labour MP Nanaia Mahuta said the obligation to protect the language lay with the Government rather than transferring that back to iwi.

Many groups, including those working in kohanga reo, were concerned about the implications of the strategy, she said.

There was a lack of information in the public domain and that needed to improve before the strategy could be implemented successfully.

"It needs to reach those people who are involved in delivering Te Reo within our schools, leading Te Reo in our broadcasting space and developing policies and funding frameworks amongst our iwi. It needs to be a conversation." Ms Mahuta said.

"Tut this is a short-sighted attempt to make politics of Te Reo, and the minister has no intention of following it through."

Ms Mahuta said Dr Sharples was starting something he did not intend to finish because he was leaving Parliament after the election, and that he should have done it at the start of his term rather than the end.

The number of Maori able to speak Te Reo decreased from 25 percent to 21.3 percent between 1996 and 2013.