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Minister’s Māori Language Strategy Is Wrong

WIILIE JACKSON OPINION

It seems unbelievable that the Minister of Māori Affairs Pita Sharples is intent on returning the leadership of the Māori language back to the tribes.

He has convinced government that tribes have all the answers in terms of leading Māori language initiatives.

Of course history tells us that nothing could be further from the truth.

Most tribes have not been supportive of Māori language programmes, in fact probably the most respected Māori language tutor in the country Professor Timoti Karetu said, “Why would you return the language leadership to those who let it die”.

He is right on the mark, the most ironic part of Minister Sharples plan is that he himself played a major part in the Māori language renaissance but in the city.

He did that because his tribe was just not interested in any reo revitalization and as Professor Karetu says “Left the language to die”.

Yet here he is now giving back the leadership to people who have no right to be fronting it.

The Māori language renaissance was born in the cities, at Marae like Hoani Waititi, and at Kohanga Reo in Auckland and Wellington.

So much is owed to the people who led that, who were without doubt proud tribal people but who chose to make their lives in the city.

Pita Sharples was a leader in that movement that’s why it’s so disappointing watching him roll out this policy known as Te Mātāwaia.

I know he is well intentioned, he is a good man and has been a great front person for his Māori Party.

However this policy is an affront to his constituents, he is the MP for Maori in Auckland, not for the Hawkes Bay or East Coast.

It is a policy that does not support the very people who elected him, and as well, does not support the New Zealand Māori Council being a part of the future Te Mātāwaia strategy, which will see a new entity established to oversee the Māori language rollout around the country.

The Te Mātāwaia leadership group will be dominated by tribal representatives, and unfortunately, Sharples has left out the council, which is the very group responsible for getting our language officially recognised in this country.

It’s sad that he has done this given that the council took the Māori language kaupapa all the way to the Privy Council and forced the Government to recognize our reo while the tribes didn’t lift a finger.

And now he cuts their throats.

But then the Council have been a thorn in the National governments side for some time now and I can’t help but think this is what is behind Minister Sharples policy.

The Māori Council challenge the government on many issues, water rights was a classic example and they can hold up plans, so any chance government can see where they can reduce the power of the council they will take the opportunity.

Sadly Minister Sharples looks like he now is part of the government’s plans.

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