Hine McLetchie (Ngāpuhi), Pouako Te Ao Māori Development and Tutor at Tai Poutini Polytechnic and branch committee TEU te uepū representative reflects on the challenges we must face if we are to meet the Government’s te reo Māori targets.

The Government has an aspiration that basic te reo Māori will be spoken by a million people in Aotearoa by 2040. Nearly $10 million in the Wellbeing Budget will fund Te Taura Whiri i Te Reo Māori, the Māori Language Commission, and support an increase in certification for te reo Māori teachers. A further $6 million will be invested in the Kāhui model run by Te Mātāwai to support the Maihi Māori programme in the wider Māori community.

A further $14 million is being invested over the next two years to support Te Māngai Pāho to fund more te reo Māori and Māori-focussed content for broadcasting across the motu, in a bid to further public use, support and exposure to te reo Māori.

However, there are a number of challenges we must collectively address if we are to meet this ambitious goal, as a country. A key challenge will be ensuring the participation of adults in both public and community institutions across the country.

The Working Group for the NZQA Te Reo Māori Qualifications Review defined ‘basic’ te reo Māori as a level 1 on the NZ qualifications framework. This was further developed into a 60 credit programme to be delivered in an immersion or bi-lingual learning and teaching environment.

One of the key modifications from previous qualifications was the interweaving of four guiding principles underpinning course and programme development thereby ensuring a Māori-centric curriculum is provided. These are Mana Tangata, Mana Whenua, Mana Reo, and Mana Ao Tūroa.

These four components need to be present when considering my recommendation to assist with contributing to the realisation of all three audacious goals of The Crown’s Strategy for Maori Language Revitalisation 2019-2023:

1) By 2040, 85 per cent of New Zealanders (or more) will value te reo Māori as a key element of national identity.

2) By 2040, one million New Zealanders (or more) will have the ability and confidence to talk about at least basic things in te reo Māori.

3) By 2040, 150,000 Māori aged 15 and over will use te reo Māori as much as English (Te Puni Kōkiri).

All three goals necessitate the participation of adults, whether that be in the public or private sector, as kaimahi or as employers, as learners or as educators, and therefore presume some level of tertiary training.

As part of the Reform of Vocational Education, the Government proposes to make residential retreats available throughout the motu, with priority on the public sector needs for basic te reo Māori/ level 1.  Each retreat will be held over 28 days and deliver a NZQA 60 credit te reo Māori programme with a Māori-centric curriculum.  The advantage of being residential is the opportunity for accelerated and experiential learning within a culturally appropriate environment, with the likelihood of long-term and / or permanent change within the resident tauira.

This would be part of a kaimahi’s professional development plan, be financially supported by the employer and valued within the work environment in which the knowledge learnt is reflected, actualised and normalised.

This is not a new initiative. Consider the decades of work by Bruce Stewart and Tapu Te Ranga Marae, of which I myself have had the privilege of being one of the thousands of residents that lived and worked within this kaupapa. The experiences, learnings and knowledge that have been permanently carved into my identity through the work of Stewart and Tapu Te Ranga Marae would not have had the same impact without the nine months of residential retreat that was generously offered and gratefully accepted.

Initiatives such as these can increase both tamariki and adult participation. Reaching the audacious goals outlined by the Government will surely require the support and continuation of these programmes at tertiary level, and an assurance that they will be made accessible to all.