All New Zealand schoolchildren would learn Maori under
Labour's long-term plan for te reo, but it appears the party is
loath to give the policy a high profile.
Labour Maori affairs spokeswoman Nanaia Mahuta and education
spokesman Chris Hipkins indicated Labour had an
"aspirational" target for Maori to be taught in all schools
after the Maori Party's Te Tai Tokerau candidate, Te Hira
Paenga, claimed Labour had endorsed his party's policy for
compulsory te reo in schools.
"We are glad to see Labour at last getting the message that
our reo is something that we all, as New Zealanders, should
embrace," Mr Paenga said.
Ms Mahuta initially suggested Mr Paenga had the wrong end of
the stick, saying Labour would only promote its own policy
which was "the recognition that te reo should be a working
language for all New Zealanders".
However, Ms Mahuta was far more direct in a debate held in
Gisborne earlier this month when she said: "We've made a
clear commitment that te reo Maori will be compulsory in our
She later said the comment was made in the context of the
recognition "that there are some real challenges in our
school system to build the capacity of our teaching workforce
who are able to teach te reo Maori".
She said te reo for all schoolchildren was "an aspirational
goal within our policy platform around te reo Maori and we
believe that we need to take some practical steps to be able
to build up, for example, the teaching workforce to be able
to teach te reo Maori in our schools as a way towards
supporting that aspiration".
Education spokesman Mr Hipkins said Labour "certainly
wouldn't use the phrase compulsory" for its long-term te reo
"I would certainly like to make sure all kids have the option
and there is availability of te reo maori in all schools.
Whether in fact that was compulsory, that's a discussion for
"Frankly, we're just not at the point where we could have
that discussion. For a start off we don't have enough te reo
Maori teachers to be able to even contemplate that at the
He said there was already unmet demand for Maori language
- By Adam Bennett of the New Zealand Herald