'Be proud of your language', Cook Islands Language Week starts

Cook Islands Language Week has kicked off with a new theme - Be proud of your language and protect its future.

The theme was chosen because the language is a risk, with Cook Islands Māori currently classified as a vulnerable language by UNESCO.

Minister for Pacific Peoples, Aupito William Sio, says, "This is a very pertinent theme for Cook Islanders because use of the language is declining and its future is under threat."

Almost 62,000 people identified as Cook Islanders in the latest New Zealand census. With the population of the Cook Islands at just over 17,000, Sio says New Zealand has a significant role in the survival of the language.

"New Zealand has an important part to play in protecting the future of the language because there are more people of Cook Islands descent in New Zealand than the Cook Islands."

The Ministry for Pacific Peoples worked with the Cook Islands Development Agency New Zealand and the Christchurch Cook Islands community to make this year's Cook Islands Language Week possible.

"Language is inextricably linked to one's identity and sense of belonging and that is why continued use is so important," says Sio.

"It's part of knowing ourselves and ensuring this rich heritage can be passed on to the next generation."

In the Cook Islands, the country is currently celebrating the nation's independence with culture and dance festival Te Maeva Nui.