11 Mar 2016

Māori Language Bill read for second time

1:57 pm on 11 March 2016

The Māori Language Bill - Te Pire mō Te Reo Māori - was read in Parliament last night for the second time.

Seats in the empty debating chamber at Parliament

MPs voted 109 in favour of the Bill, with only the twelve NZ First MPs opposed. Photo: RNZ

The Bill proposes the establishment of Te Mātāwai - a new independent statutory organisation that will lead the Māori and iwi language strategy.

It recognises Māori as kaitiaki (guardians) of the language.

The Bill enjoyed support across the House and, with the exception of NZ First, members spoke of its value to Aotearoa.

Māori Party co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell spoke about the Bill's purpose.

"To affirm the status of the Māori language as a taonga of iwi and Māori and as an official language of New Zealand."

Labour's Nanaia Mahuta told the House the Bill reflected the aims and aspirations of the country.

"That Te Reo Māori is a flourishing language for every New Zealander," she said.

National's David Bennett spoke of Māori language as "a defining feature and a taonga for our country."

The changes to the second reading included keeping Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori (the Māori Language Commission) and Te Māngai Pāho (the Māori Broadcasting Funding Agency) as independent Crown entities rather than bringing them under Te Mātāwai.

Members voted 109 in favour of the Bill last night, with only the twelve NZ First MPs opposed.

NZ First's Pita Paraone spoke of the potential for dissent among iwi when nominating seven members for Te Mātāwai to represent their interests.

"What is the reason for giving them that problem so that they will end up arguing among themselves?" asked Mr Paraone.

Māori Party co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell said the Bill was introduced by his predecessor Dr Pita Sharples, "in 2014 with the aim of putting Te Reo Māori back in to the hands of our people".

For Parliament, it is the second ever Bill of a dual language to be introduced, but the first where the Māori language version will take precedence in any conflict over interpretation.

Mr Flavell spoke about the ground-breaking nature of the Bill and the mana it brings to Te Reo Māori.

"The Bill will introduce a new way for the Crown, Iwi and Māori to work together on Māori language revitalisation," he said.

The Bill is set-down for its third and final reading and the Minister of Māori Developement, Te Ururoa Flavell, hopes it will be read before the end of the month.