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Send the Bill to the Waitangi Tribunal – Māori Language (Te Reo Māori) Bill

Council Co-Chair, Maanu Paul, is issuing this challenge for the Māori Language (Te Reo Māori) Bill.

“The Bill bypasses those with special expertise in language development or urban groups with access to urban youth, and shifts the management of the language to the tribes. It also bypasses the Waitangi Tribunal which was seized of the issue at the time. By law the Tribunal’s jurisdiction ends once a Bill is before the House unless Parliament agrees to refer the Bill to the Waitangi Tribunal.”

“It is disturbing that government should gag the Tribunal at this time”, said Mr Paul, “when this Parliament’s work is coming to an end. Now is a perfect time for the Tribunal to consider the matter and have a report available for the incoming government after the election. It raises a real suspicion that government knows that the Bill will not stand up to the close scrutiny of the Tribunal and so has taken this step to close down the inquiry. “

Mr Paul has called on the Māori Party to prove its respect for the Tribunal by referring the Bill to it. If it fails to do so it will leave the Party exposed to a charge that it is not prepared to have matters measured by the yardstick of the Treaty of Waitangi.

Mr Paul and the New Zealand Māori Council lodged an urgent claim Wai 2441 1 1 1 the Crown’s proposed Te Reo Mauriora Strategy, on 30 May 30 this year.

In the past Council has negotiated with the Crown to put into effect governance and policy measures to protect and promote Te Reo Māori.

The Government has undertaken a process to change those governance and policy measures without directly consulting with the NZMC one of the litigants in the Court proceedings that resulted in the formation of the Māori Language Commission, Te Mangai Paho and Māori Broadcasting.

On 15 July 2010 the Minister of Māori Affairs appointed a Panel to inquire into the state of the Māori Language. In April 2011 the Panel issued its Report. The Report contains recommendations on the restructure of the governance entities responsible for the promotion and advancement of Te Reo Māori. The Māori Language Bill is based on that report.

The Bill makes radical changes to the way Māori language is managed and delivered. No direct consultation was held with Council, the process was rushed, it did not cover the main tribal areas and it was truncated in the urban areas. The fact that most of the feedback from the hui rejected the proposals should have alerted the Māori Party to the fact that a fuller discussion was needed.

The Government’s Bill proposes a national board made up of seven representatives from what is claimed to be the seven regional language dialects and several members appointed by the Crown. The effect of the Bill is for the Crown to dictate to Māori how the survival of their language is to be achieved. The Crown’s record on this so far has seen Māori language reach new levels of risk of survival.

Another failing of the Bill is that the proposed changes omit the bulk of the funding spent on Māori Language. For example, in 2009 the Government allocated $596,052,023 to Māori Language. The bulk of this money (84.25%) is controlled and allocated by the Ministry of Education and there is currently no requirement on the Ministry of Education to ensure that the funds it allocates are actually spent on Māori language programmes.

The Bill breaches the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi. The claimants, Maanu Paul and the New Zealand Māori Council have asked the Minister of Treaty Negotiations to ensure the Bill doesn’t breach the Treaty by putting a resolution to the House to refer the Māori Language (Te Reo Māori) Bill to the Waitangi Tribunal for its view as to whether the Bill is consistent with the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi.

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