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Prime Minister John Key should be ready to "nurture" te reo Maori instead of dismissing it as "boring", a language watchdog says.
The Maori Language Commission, or Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Maori, said today New Zealand's indigenous language needed more support - particularly from the Prime Minister.
A Waiuku College student was reportedly in tears after Mr Key reportedly dismissed her question about extending Maori Language Week on Friday.
Today Mr Key denied the comments, saying he was "perplexed" by the story.
But commissioner Dr Wayne Ngata said the Prime Minister needed to learn a lesson from the school, as well as the student.
"The courage she displayed is a courage we would hope a Prime Minister would display in protecting the indigenous language of a country that requires ongoing support," he said.
"For te reo Maori to survive it must be nurtured at the highest levels. New Zealand has shown it is ready to nurture te reo Maori and so too should the Prime Minister."
Dr Ngata said it was time Maori language was promoted more intensively and for longer periods of time - exactly what the Waiuku student reportedly put to the Prime Minister at a school assembly last week.
The amount of support for this year's Maori Language Week, which ran from July 27 - August 2, could have "easily" seen it extended to a month, Dr Ngata said.
Staff were still dealing with hundreds of new orders for resources, topping the almost 30,000 resources already sent out in the lead-up to the week, he said.
"Normalising the language into everyday affairs and activities is key and is increasingly becoming a priority for New Zealanders."
But Mr Key told TV One's Breakfast show this morning the week would be "diluted" if it was extended.
He said he "certainly would never give an answer" that would upset a student.
"I did not say that. I'm actually pretty perplexed by the story," he said.
"When it's a week, there's an intensity that takes place. And it would get diluted ... if we had it over a month."
A spokeswoman for Mr Key earlier said students may have misinterpreted his answer.