Māori language planning – community organisations

Benefits of the Māori language

Māori identity: Māori language is the foundation of Māori identity. Kapa haka, karakia, tauparapara, whakapapa, tikanga, waiata, karanga and of course whai kōrero are all made possible by the Māori language. Simply put, Māori language is the foundation of Māori culture and identity. Language carries with it information about who we are, how we express ourselves and culture, and how we define the world around us.

National identity: it is Māori culture that makes New Zealand distinctive. From Māori Inc in Asia to Ngāti Rānana in London to the tourism industry here at home, it is Māori culture that plays a big part in promoting New Zealand to the world. Increasing awareness of Māori language and Māori language issues to all New Zealanders contributes to the maintenance of New Zealand’s distinctive culture.

Bi-lingualism: There is a mistaken narrative that learning Māori somehow hinders a person’s ablity to learn English. International studies have shown that learning a 2nd language actually improves a person’s command of their primary language. Not only does learning a new language improve cognitive function [1] and linguistical manipulation skills, but it also helps a person to understand an alternative perspective.

What is Māori language planning?

Language planning is a process to help whānau, hapū, iwi and other organisations identify the Māori language needs of their community, set goals for what they want to do for the language and plan out in manageable steps how to go about achieving those goals. Many whānau, hapū and iwi are already using language planning as a tool to support Māori language development in their communities.

What does a Māori language plan look like?

A language plan can be a document or shared understanding amonst a group that sets out all the “steps” needed to achieve language goals, and spells them out clearly so that everyone understands them. This provides a focus and means of keeping everyone on track towards achieving their language goals.

Why write a Māori language plan?

The Māori language supports Māori social identity and culture, and how we define the world around us. The revitalisation of Māori language so that New Zealand will once again resonate with our indigenous language as an everyday, commonly used medium of communication is the language goal.

Planning can help ensure that efforts to revitalise the Māori language are carefully directed to be as effective as possible. Planning ensures that 'big picture' goals are set strategically and efforts to achieve goals are coordinated amongst all major stakeholders.

International language planning research suggests that there are five primary areas that account for language health - language usage, status, acquisition, corpus[2] and awareness. Furthermore, each of these areas are interdependent, for example, if more people learn the language it can be expected that there will be more who speak the langauge as a result, likewise the more more people who use the language and learn the language, the higher the overall quality of the language. Language planning can help to ensure that all regeneration efforts are coordinated in each of the five areas.

Long-term planning

Long-term planning provides direction and focus for a group, and ensures that everyone is working towartds the same goal. Begin your long-term planning by finding out if everyone agrees with the need to do something about Māori language in your community, and with some ideas of why you want to do it.

Your language planning team

Having a group of people dedicated to driving the plan right from the beginning will ensure that more than one person is responsible for developing the Māori language plan and overseeing the work programme. Making sure that the people in your team have the right skills to implement your pla is essential and you may need to bring in outside help initially. Ideally, you’d have people with some experience or knowledge about:

  • Māori language, your own dialect especially (if applicable)
  • Sociolinguistics
  • Language planning
  • Working with other people i.e. running meetings and presenting information to your community

Step 1 – Reo Māori in your community

Do you have enough information to start planning? An important part of setting a realistic goal for the future is knowing what is already happening in your community with Māori language.

Begin by finding out about the Māori language skills, activities and resources that currently exist within your community. Some important questions to consider:

  • Who is using reo Māori?
  • Where is reo Māori being used?
  • Why is reo Māori used?
  • How do community institutions (marae, kōhanga reo, Māori language clubs etc) support Māori language in your community?
  • What reo Māori programmes are already being run?

By collecting this information, you can build up a community profile or picture of the health of reo Māori in your community. Then you can map out the difference between where you are and where you want to be in the future.

It is also important to know whether others in tyour area are trying to plan for the same things.

For more information about how to put together a community profile, check out the following profiles:

Link 1

Link 2

Link 3

Step 2 – Setting your long-term goals

Once you know what’s happening in your community, it’s time to set your long-term goals. This means deciding what your group want to achieve with the Māori language in the years ahead (could be 5 years, 10 years, even 15+ years. It is important to take a wide view of long-term goals as it will help shape the rest of your Māori language plan. Long term goals are important even if the immediate project for which a Māori language plan is being created for is short-term in nature.

Get your Māori Language Team together to set goals that reflect the needs of your community and to ensure that people understand and potentially support the goals when it comes to doing the work.

Here are some areas you could consider for goals:

Number of speakers: increase the number of reo Māori speakers in your community

Proficiency: increase the Māori language proficiency levels of certain groups i.e. parents, teachers, paepae speakers etc

Locations: speak Māori in certain locatios or domains, i.e. home, marae etc

Tikanga: that your marae is capable of performing traditional marae roles

Resources: create reo Māori resources (for schools, adults etc)

Step 3 – Determining your target group

Once you have decided on the long-term goals, it’s time to determine who your target audience will be to achieve your goals. This will help to shape the language plan in a targetted way as a plan that focusses on taking an adult who is a beginner reo Māori learner to intermedia competency will be very different to a plan that aims to take improve the proficiency of teenage kura kaupapa students. The target groups can be as narrow or as wide as you want.

Step 4 – Setting your short-term goals

Short-term goals help you achieve your long-term goals. By setting short-term goals you define the steps you need to go through to get to your long-term goal.

The community profile (Step 1), long-term goals (Step 2) and target group determination (Step 3) will all help to shape the short-term goals which will help to realise the longer-term goal.

Step 5 – Developing a work programme

When you have prepared your short-term goals, set up a work programme that details what needs to happen in order to fulfill the short-term goals of your Māori language plan.

At this stage you need to be discussing things like:

  • What activities you want to undertake (i.e. wānanga reo, mōteatea classes, providing information day for whānau, resources etc
  • What preparation is needed for the activities (booking a room, any material, food for manuhiri etc
  • Who needs to be involved? i.e. kaumātua, teachers, ringawera
  • How do you advertise the activity to people and get them on board with the kaupapa? i.e. social media, radio advertisements, letter drop etc

Step 6 – Implementing your plan

Your work plan must have activities that can be realisitically achieved and involved as many of your language planning group members as possible.

Look around your community and see what exists to help you. For the Māori language, the most important resource is people.

It is also important to remember that movitation for implementing Māori language plans often fluctuates so making sure the workload doesn’t fall on one person is extremely important. Be realistic about what you can achieve and make definate plans to get back on track.

Your Language Planning Team that is responsible for ensuring the work programme continues on track will help to increase the motivation and commitment from people.

Funding may also be needed to undertake certain activities. In this case you could apply for Māori language funding from Mā Te Reo Fund, the Lotteries Grants Board, local community trusts and Ministry for Culture and Heritage.

Step 7 – Keeping track of progress / evaluation

It is very important to keep track of the progress you are making with your plan, so that you know whether you are on the road to achieving your goals. This will allow you to review plans if needed.

It is possible to monitor and evaluate progress at two levels.

For short-term goals – track your progress through a check list.

  • Have you done the things that you said you would do in the work programme?
  • Were you pleased with the way that they turned out?
  • Did they provide the results that you expected?
  • Did you meet your budget?

It is useful to keep track of achievements in this way so that you can show immediate progress to the community and to possible sponsors.

For long-term goals – look at the big picture


For example, a community profile paints a picture of a commuinty where the reo Māori speakers are heavily concentrated in the older generation (with a gap in the younger generations). The long-term goal could be focussed on the youngest generation (say 0-5) being able to speak Māori fluently by the time they are adults (as this would ‘replenish’ speaker stocks).


  • Setting up community night classes twice a week to teach parents of young children reo Māori for the next 6 months
  • Creating five different reo Māori resources for children aged 0-5 years old in the next 6 months
  • Setting up classes to teach aspiring pre-school teachers reo Māori which will allow for pre-school learning in Māori – goal is to have two teachers who are ready to teach reo Māori to the youngest generation.

[2] a collection of written texts, especially the entire works of a particular author or a body of writing on a particular subject

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