Māori Language Bill becomes law

By Heta Gardiner
  • Wellington

The Māori Language Bill, Te Mātāwai, is now law. In the past couple of hours, the bill passed its third reading with the support of all the parties in the House except for New Zealand First.

How the Māori language is administered has officially changed. It's the result of the efforts of two Māori Affairs' ministers, many years of work, and countless amendments.

The very purpose of the bill was to give the governance authority over Māori entities like the Māori Language Commission and Māori Television, back to iwi. 

Māori language advocate Te Keepa Stirling says, “The language originated with iwi. So it's fitting that it goes back to them.”

This bill was established under controversy. Many people, like Tīmoti Kāretu, didn't favour the idea of giving control back to the people who, according to them, took the language to the brink of extinction.

Despite those concerns, many language advocates ascended onto Parliament today, to celebrate the bill.

“I'm very pleased. Why, because the time has come for our language to be celebrated.”

But some questions still linger, like the future of those working for Māori government departments.

Chair of Ngāti Kahungunu Iwi Incorporated, Ngāhiwi Apanui, says, “There will no doubt be job losses because the distribution of funding will be a job taken by Te Mātāwai.”

The Minister for Māori Development told Te Kāea today that it will likely take six to eight months for Te Mātāwai to be established and up and running, so we are likely to see that happen before the end of the year.