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Te reo agenda to be set by councils

Despite the government rolling back te reo Māori use in the public sector, council policies will not be affected, the Local Government Minister has confirmed.

At Tuesday’s South Wairarapa District Council [SWDC] Māori Standing Committee [MSC], concern was expressed for the future of the council’s refreshed Māori Policy draft.

“There might be a few more tweaks required but let’s not muck around on this,” MSC member Whitu Karanua said.

“In this government environment we are going through, by March there may be a whole new lot of legislation come out that might change this all again.”

The refreshed policy would obligate the council to provide opportunities for staff, elected members, and appointed members to “learn, understand, and speak te reo Māori”.

The policy also acknowledges te reo me ōna tikanga Māori [the language and its cultural practices] and, specifically, te reo Māori as an official language of Aotearoa New Zealand.

Under the policy, SWDC would “promote its use within the organisation and the wider community” and would also seek advice and direction from the appropriate persons on correct place names for use in council documents.

The policy would also ensure Māori cultural values, protocols, and practices are respected and incorporated into council activities, events, and decision-making processes.

Regarding the concern over the policy’s future, Local Government Minister Simeon Brown said it is “a matter for the South Wairarapa District Council”.

“Local government is responsible to its residents and ratepayers, and the government has no intention to involve itself in these matters,” he said.

The policy has drawn praise and criticism online, with one Facebook commenter saying, “Excellent. Good on them”, another sharing clapping emojis, and other commenters suggesting SWDC “get on with council business”.

But Mayor Martin Connelly has signalled he wants the policy to go one step further and suggested the document have clear directives for the council to achieve the policy.

“All we have here essentially is a set of principles,” he said of the draft policy.

“For example, here we’ve got a policy which I thoroughly approve of: we are going to promote the use of te reo,” he said at Tuesday’s meeting.

“Okay, that’s rather vague, I have to say. What does that mean? What would we actually expect to see there?

“It seems to me that detail would be more useful and helpful. Does one half-hour lesson a year count? It sort of does, but I suspect that isn’t what we envisioned.”

A SWDC staffer said the policy was pitched as a strategic document that gives guidance, “rather than the procedural side of it”.

The MSC will convene again to workshop the policy next month.

After fine-tuning, it will be presented for adoption at the SWDC Strategy Working Committee meeting. -NZLDR

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air


  1. Before you impose a policy that “… would also ensure Māori cultural values, protocols, and practices are respected and incorporated into council activities, events, and decision-making processes.” and “promote its use within the organisation and the wider community”. You might try asking the ‘wider community’ (i.e. electorate) if that is what the majority want. I suspect that it is not.

  2. In this government environment we are going through? WHAT a racist comment to make. What your saying is our way or the highway 🛣 get out. When New Zealand 🇳🇿 😍 becomes a communist or dictatorship country it’s a free democracy country to live in as one people.

Comments are closed.

Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland is Wairarapa’s Local Democracy Reporter, a Public Interest Journalism role funded through NZ On Air. Emily has worked at the Wairarapa Times-Age for seven years and has a keen interest in council decision-making and transparency.

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