Story: Te reo Māori – the Māori language

Page 6. Ongoing work, 1980s to 2000s

All images & media in this story

Kura kaupapa

In response to the increasing number of kōhanga reo graduates, kura kaupapa (Māori-language immersion schools) were developed to provide a full immersion Māori-language education. The first to open was Te Kura Kaupapa o Hoani Waititi in Auckland. A curriculum programme, Te Aho Matua, designed for these schools provided an alternative education system for those who wanted their children taught in Māori. Wharekura (Māori-language secondary schools) were later developed to support the educational progression of these children.

Whakatupuranga Rua Mano

In 1975 Professor Whatarangi Winiata developed Whakatupuranga Rua Mano as a strategic plan to revitalise the Māori language in Ngāti Raukawa, Te Āti Awa and Ngāti Toarangatira. At the time these iwi had no speakers of te reo under the age of 30 and there was a fear that the language would die out. The plan aimed to increase the number of speakers through immersion wānanga, and laid the foundations for the establishment of Te Wānanga o Raukawa in 1981. This offered a model for other whare wānanga (Māori tertiary education institutions), and Awanuiārangi and Aotearoa wānanga were set up shortly afterwards.

Māori language claim

In 1984, Ngā Kaiwhakapūmau i te Reo (the Wellington Māori Language Board) lodged a claim with the Waitangi Tribunal seeking official status for the language. This claim, WAI 11, was the first generic Māori claim to the Tribunal; the hearings took four weeks. In 1986 the tribunal recommended that the language be acknowledged as a taonga (treasure) under Article II of the Treaty of Waitangi and recognised as an official language. The Māori Language Act 1987 made Māori an official language and set up Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori, the Māori Language Commission.

Māori broadcasting

Also in 1987 the first Māori radio station, Te Upoko o Te Ika, was piloted, and other stations soon followed. In the 1990s the government made plans to sell state-owned broadcasting assets. The New Zealand Māori Council and Ngā Kaiwhakapūmau i te Reo took the Crown to court to halt these sales. When their attempts failed, they appealed all the way to the Privy Council in England. This court recognised that the language was in a ‘vulnerable state’; the Crown would need to ‘take especially vigorous action for its protection’.1 As a consequence, the Crown amended the Broadcasting Act in 1993 and established Te Māngai Pāho, the Māori language and culture broadcasting funding agency. In the 2000s, 21 iwi radio stations across the country were part of the network funded by Te Māngai Pāho.

Māori television programming

Māori television programmes have also been a feature of mainstream broadcasting, and Te karere, Waka huia and Marae are flagship programmes on Television New Zealand. In 2004 the Māori Television Service (since 2022, Whakaata Māori) was set up to increase Māori-language broadcasting. Four years later Māori Television launched the Te Reo channel, which broadcasts entirely in Māori. The broadcasting industry has had a significant impact in raising awareness of the Māori language and supporting its revitalisation, particularly for those who have limited access to speakers.

Māori Language Strategy

In 1997 the government developed the Māori Language Strategy to coordinate the Māori-language sector. This provided a platform from which Te Puni Kōkiri, the Ministry for Māori Development, was able to carry out research on the health of the Māori language and monitor the numbers of speakers.

The Māori Language Strategy 2003–2008 focused on increasing language use in specific domains, with an overall vision that ‘[b]y 2028, the Māori language will be widely spoken by Māori. In particular, the Māori language will be in common use within Māori whānau, homes and communities. All New Zealanders will appreciate the value of the Māori language to New Zealand society’2.

In 2010 the minister of Māori affairs established a panel, Te Paepae Motuhake, to review the Māori-language sector and its funding. Before the conclusion of this review, the Waitangi Tribunal released a pre-publication version of its WAI 262 findings related to the Māori language. The Te reo mauriora report, also released in 2010, proposed changes to the Māori Language Strategy that would shift the focus back into communities and homes.

  1. Quoted in Ko Aotearoa tēnei: a report into claims concerning New Zealand law and policy affecting Māori culture and identity. Vol. 2. Wellington: Waitangi Tribunal, 2011, p. 401. Back
  2. Māori Language Strategy 2003–2008. Wellington: Te Puni Kōkiri, 2003, p. 5. Back
How to cite this page:

Rawinia Higgins and Basil Keane, 'Te reo Māori – the Māori language - Ongoing work, 1980s to 2000s', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 22 April 2024)

Story by Rawinia Higgins and Basil Keane, published 5 Sep 2013, updated 1 Sep 2015