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Oct 24: Erima Henare and Dr Joseph Te Rito

Sunday 24th October, 2010

Marae INVESTIGATES Jodi Ihaka interviews Chairman of the Maori Language Commission, Erima Henare and Maori language expert Dr. Joseph Te Rito.

Points of interest - PANEL DISCUSSION:

- HENARE : "the report also points out the number of people going to Kohanga Reo, Kura Kaupapa, Whare Kura are dropping so that begs the question why are our people not accessing what in essence are good models of teaching te reo Maori?"

- HENARE:  "where's the Iwi response to this cry?"

  TE RITO: "Iwi Radio has been stuck on about $350,000 a year for   the last 20 years. Now radio gets right into the homes on a daily   basis 24 hours a day, I think while I love the report I think this an   area that is gravely lacking in the recommendations."

Points of interest - Marae INVESTIGATES Stories:

Quest for Mana - Reporter Jodi Ihaka
- Candidates Kris Faafoi and Hekia Parata both have tremendous and highly visible support from their Party Leaders.  

Winston Reid - Reporter Karley Hemopo
- First Maori to play in English Premiere League
- Engaged by Phil Parker to become a mentor for Maori Football NZ

The interview has been transcribed below.  The full length panel discussion and stories from this morning's Marae Investigates can also be seen on at,

Marae Investigates is repeated on TVNZ 7 at 6.10pm and 10.35pm on Sunday nights, 12.35pm on Mondays, and Saturday at 7.35am. 

The Waitangi Tribunal has revealed the Maori Language is at crisis point and that urgent and far reaching Government changes are required to save it. The findings are from a report on the WAI 262 claim, which covers flora and fauna and Maori Cultural Intellectual Property.

IHAKA Tena korua

HENARE: Tena koe

TE RITO : Tena koe

IHAKA  Erima when you received the report what was your initial reaction to it?

HENARE: The report when I saw it I thought that I had written the report. If you read my utterances over the last three years as Commissioner you will see than many of the things that are in the report are things that I've said.

IHAKA:  As Head of the Maori Language Commission are you comforted by some of the words or the stronger direction that the government needs to take to help the language survive.

HENARE: I 'm comforted by the words that relate to the response from the Crown, I'm sad that there's no inference or reference in there for the need for our people to wake up too to the fact that the language is in trouble.

IHAKA:  How much trouble is it actually in?

HENARE:  Well I think that the last major survey of the health of the Maori language was done by Dr Richard Benton in 1975 and definitely the number of native speakers since then has declined terribly to a pretty sad state now. There are a cohort of people replacing them as fluent speakers but if you see the   report also points out the number of people going to Kohanga Reo, Kura Kaupapa, Whare kura are dropping so that begs the question why are our people not accessing what in essence are good models of teaching te reo Maori so hence my saying where's the Iwi response to this cry?

IHAKA:  Sure. Now Joe you teach te reo on a grassroots level in the communities. Do you agree with what has been said so far?

TE RITO:  Absolutely I totally concur with the outcomes of the Waitangi Tribunal Report and I feel the same as Erima, I feel like I have written that report as well. I made similar recommendations in 1999 when I was a Research Fellow under the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust and studied Language Revitalisation overseas and this recommendation about the Maori Language Commission that's one of the recommendations I made in my report as well as the strengthening of the Maori Language Act?

IHAKA: Every year we hear that if Maori Language had a heart beat it would be flat lining, it would be dead. So who is responsible do you think?

TE RITO:  I don't really like to point fingers I guess we'd have to take that responsibility as a whole nation, not just Pakeha not just Maori. So I think we have to take that jointly and look towards solving the problem.

IHAKA:  The findings show basically that Maori have actually had to keep the language alive ourselves so&Erima who do you think is responsible for keeping the language alive?

HENARE: Like Joe I think it's a joint initiative it's a joint response. To date people have tended to focus on the Crown's response and the amount of money that they've spent on it but I think like with all strategic and business planning unless the people for whom the language belongs are involved in that planning and in that process there's always going to be a disconnect, so I think it is a joint process and I also agree with Joe that its a New Zealand wide response that's required.

IHAKA: Do you think the Maori Language Commission has to take total ownership of this? 

HENARE: I think it has from the Crown's perspective. We need to remember that the Taura Whiri the Maori language Commission was established as a result of a Treaty of Waitangi claim, and therefore there should be in that mix an iwi component within the Commission, and perhaps at that point I would be comfortable with carrying this task forward.

IHAKA: How more involved do you think the Minister of Maori Affairs needs to be?

HENARE: I think this Minister is very involved. I think the fact that he has put Te Papa Motuhake together his review group to look in essence at all the issues the Tribunal have raised rather surprisingly. And I think the man is, the Minister is committed& Kura Kaupapa, Whare Kura he is the father of those concepts so I think he is fully committed to this kaupapa.

IHAKA: Do you think there is potential for him to actually do more given that he is in government?

HENARE: I think he sees that role as being a very special one and I think in his utterances to both over this report and over the last few years he's been Minister he has clearly demonstrated that.

IHAKA: Joe, I've talked to other reo Maori tutors this week they say there is a disconnect, the reo is not being spoken in the home? What do you know about that?

TE RITO: I think that's true but I think that one thing that's lacking in this report is any real mention about broadcasting it focuses totally on education and I think we need to increase resources particularly in radio, Iwi Radio. Iwi Radio has been stuck on about $350,000 a year for the last 20 years. Now radio gets right into the homes on a daily basis 24 hours a day, I think while I love the report I think this an area that is gravely lacking in the recommendations.

IHAKA: What about Maori television? People think everybody is speaking the reo now so how do we get Pakeha or non Maori speakers to become more engaged with the language?

TE RITO: There's a lot of marketing of course in this whole thing, things don't just happen automatically like that it's a whole promotional and marketing campaign and this has been shown overseas in places like Wales you've got to bring, you've got to get the Politicians on side, you've got to get the nation on side from that point onwards. We as Maori know the importance but we have to show that importance and I think we have to use PR.

IHAKA : What direction do you think the Maori Language is going to take from here on?

HENARE: I think it will be to alert our people to the need to speak te reo in their homes, more than they do now. I think that the Maori Language communities need to become more active than what they already are doing the things that they're doing now. I don't think it's an issue of money I think the money is there I think it's just a matter of marshalling our resources and waking our people up. I remember 23 years ago when the Commission was formed Professor Karetu said then, you know, if we don't do something to te reo then it will go the way of the moa and if that was what our people wanted then this generation of fluent speakers and native speakers will be the one to put it to rest in its grave which will not leave it any longer. And then we're heartened by a month ago survey coming out saying 39% of people in New Zealand now want compulsory Maori Language in schools. Of 10 people asked in the Dominion Post yesterday 8 of them all said that they would prefer that Maori Language was compulsory so perhaps we're looking at those options as well.

IHAKA:  Indeed. Thank you very much gentlemen for coming onto the programme.