A statistical snapshot of te reo in 2014

Te Kupenga

  • In 2013, Statistics New Zealand carried out the Te Kupenga survey of Māori about Māori well-being. The survey included the question, ‘How well are you able to speak Māori in a day-to-day conversation?’ Respondents could select from five answers:
  • very well (I can talk about almost anything in Māori)
  • well (I can talk about many things in Māori)
  • fairly well (I can talk about some things in Māori)
  • not very well (I can only talk about simple/basic things in Māori)
  • no more than a few words or phrases.

Key results for te reo include:

  • 257,500 (55 percent) Māori adults had some ability to speak te reo Māori; that is, they were able to speak more than a few words or phrases in the language. This compares with 153,500 (42 percent) who responded to a similar survey in 2001.
  • 50,000 (11 percent) Māori adults could speak te reo Māori very well or well; that is, they could speak about almost anything or many things in Māori.
  • Between 2001 and 2013 there was a large increase in the proportion of younger Māori who reported some ability to speak te reo Māori.
  • 164,500 (35 percent) Māori adults reported speaking some te reo Māori within the home and 21 percent reported that the language was used regularly within the home.

Census information

The 2013 census data gives a total resident Māori population of just under 600,000, of whom 21.3 percent report they can hold a conversation in te reo. The context for the drop in the percentage of Māori speaking Māori seen in Figure 1 includes:

  • the loss of nearly 10,000 speakers to Australia by 2011
  • the aging profile of native speakers – 43 percent of Māori aged 75 and over can speak te reo but only 20 percent of those aged 15 to 29 (see Figure 5 for details).

Across the whole of New Zealand, 148,395 people (3.7 percent of the total population) speak te reo.

Figure 1: Percentage of Māori able to converse in te reo, by Census year

Figure 2: Māori speakers of te reo as a proportion of the total Māori population, 2013 Census


Comparing Te Kupenga and Census information

Statistics New Zealand has prepared a paper discussing the differences in the results of Te Kupenga and the Census and the reasons for the differences, including:

  • question wording and order
  • survey delivery methods
  • survey objectives and scope
  • proficiency levels of interviewers.

The paper suggests that Te Kupenga is the best survey to give the full picture of the health of the Māori language in 2013 and that the Census is the best option to provide data trends over time.


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