The Māori language has declined sharply in the past 170 years. Despite the efforts of Māori and steps taken by the government to improve the health of the Māori language, it continues to decline.

In 2010, in the reo Māori segment of the Wai 262 claim, the Waitangi Tribunal noted that, ‘Te reo Māori is approaching a crisis point’. The situation has not improved since, with the 2013 Census reporting that the number of Māori who speak Māori has dropped from 25% to 21% of the population (to about 125,000 speakers).

Wai 262 [PDF, 3.9 MB]

In 2011, the then Minister of Māori Affairs, Hon Dr Pita Sharples, assembled a group of Māori language revival experts to form Te Paepae Motuhake. They reviewed the language revival programmes of the Government and made recommendations to improve them in their report ‘Te Reo Mauri Ora.

Te Reo Mauri Ora [PDF, 1.7 MB]

In late 2013 / early 2014, the Government put out a discussion document and consulted with the public about developing a Māori language strategy. After the consultation, in May 2014, the Government announced the Māori Language Strategy and the Māori Language (Te Reo Māori) Bill.

Discussion document [PDF, 1023 KB]

Māori Language Strategy 2014 [PDF, 514 KB]

Maori Language (Te Reo Māori) Bill(external link)

Māori Language Strategy 2014

Result areas

The new Māori Language Strategy focusses on five new key result areas:

  • Te ako i te reo – increasing the number of whānau Māori (and other New Zealanders) who can speak Māori
  • Te mana o te reo – increasing the status of the Māori language
  • Te kounga o te reo – increasing the quality of Māori language use and supporting iwi to retain their unique dialects
  • Te kōrerotanga i te reo – increasing the use of the Māori language among whānau Māori (and other New Zealanders) in everyday situations, in particular in the home
  • Te mārama pū ki te whakaora reo – increasing critical awareness about Māori language revitalisation.

Indicators and targets

There are two headline indicators that will be monitored closely under the strategy:

  • the number of Māori, whānau and other New Zealanders who can speak the Māori language
  • the attitudes of all New Zealanders towards the Māori language.

Other Māori-language research findings will supplement the data from the two headline indicators.


The strategy is based on three core principles.

Whakamana whānau, whakapiki hapū, iwi – strengthening our focus on whānau Māori, hapū and iwi. This reflects the importance of the language being passed from generation to generation and the key role of iwi and hapū in achieving this.

Kia tū rangatira ai te ao Māori – strengthening iwi and Māori leadership to lead the revitalisation of the Māori language, by giving extra support to Māori language organisations (including whānau and hapū), by encouraging government, iwi and reo Māori organisations to work more closely together, and by finding ways for reo Māori initiatives to work within the new strategy.

Mahi tōtika – supporting effective, efficient and coordinated government that increases access to Māori-language programmes and services for whānau Māori and other New Zealanders.

Lead agencies

The strategy also defines the roles of several lead agencies:

Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori is responsible for:

  • whānau language development
  • hapū and iwi language development
  • the Māori-language information programme
  • developing the Māori language.

In conjunction with Te Puni Kōkiri, we are responsible for:

  • monitoring and evaluating all programmes and services
  • developing the Matrix of Māori Language Vitality Indicators (monitoring the Māori language)
  • providing policy advice and evaluation.

Te Māngai Pāho and the Māori Television Service are responsible for Māori-language broadcasting.

The Ministry of Education is responsible for the Māori language in education. The Ministry for Culture and Heritage is responsible for the language in the arts and the language archives (shared with the Department of Internal Affairs).

Te Puni Kōkiri is responsible for Māori-language public services.

Key recommendations

The strategy includes a number of new initiatives and changes to previous goals.

A focus on whānau Māori, hapū and iwi – the Government has set aside $8.3 million to support Māori-language revival programmes focussed on whānau, hapū and iwi.[1]

An annual forum will be organised where the government and reo-Māori organisations can come together to share ideas about improving the health of the language.

Government departments will be required to include te reo Māori in their planning and implementation, and when reporting to Parliament and the public.

The Māori Language Act 1987 will be changed to give the Māori language the same rights as sign language (the Māori language will have more rights).

A new governance organisation called Te Mātāwai will be created for government-run Māori language organisations.

[1]           Including Mā Te Reo programmes, Māori language research, Community Based Learning Initiatives and He Kāinga Kōrerorero (working directly with whānau to increase the use of reo Māori in the home).

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