22 Jul 2014

Labour targets Maori speaking teachers

8:13 pm on 22 July 2014

The Labour Party says it will focus on increasing the number of Te Reo speaking teachers, as part of its language policy.

Te Reo is a big political issue for some candidates - with some saying the language is one of their main campaign issues.

The party's Maori Affairs spokesperson, Nanaia Mahuta said its Te Reo Maori strategy was not only for Maori but for all New Zealanders.

She said one of the main goals was to increase the number of proficient Maori speaking teachers, but she accepted that would be a big challenge, as the country didn't have enough kaiako to respond to the growing levels of demand.

Labour Party leader David Cunliffe said ultimately, the idea was for everyone to have the ability to learn the language if they wanted to - and he was confident that that was achievable.

Mr Cunliffe was quick to make it clear that making Te Reo compulsory in schools is not their policy and that no-one will be forced to learn the language.

He describes the language as a beautiful taonga and when asked if he himself would learn Te Reo, he said he hoped that there would be time later in his life to improve his reo.

Labour also says it will ensure schools are meeting the needs of Maori students, by making the Education Review Office's requirements concerning Maori more rigourous.

Other parts of the policy include continued support for Maori Television and iwi radio and reviewing the contribution those mediums have to raising proficiency levels of Te Reo.

A labour supporter and the veteran broadcaster Haare Williams said Te Reo is part of the wairua of the country, and needed to be nurtured.

He said Aotearoa had come a long way and he no longer felt the hostility toward the language that he did ten years ago.

Mr Williams believes the Labour Party's policy will put the future of Te Reo Rangatira on the right track.

Later this week, Parliament will begin hearing the Maori Party-designed government bill to pass governance of Te Reo to iwi - in which the Labour Party has said that the policy falls short of what it could achieve.