Māori language expert disagrees with statistics showing dwindling numbers of Māori speakers

By Heta Gardiner

The statistics that show dwindling numbers of Māori speakers are misleading. This from leading te reo Māori proponent Tīmoti Kāretu ahead of his State of Te Reo Māori address at Te Papa tonight.

So why does he believe these statistics are incorrect, considering it has been widely discussed during this year's Māori Language Week.

Statistics have been widely dispersed, showing that the number of Māori speakers has gone down in the past 20 years.

A concern that was acknowledged by the Minister of Māori Development, Te Ururoa Flavell and the Māori Language Commission. But this expert says those statistics don't show the full picture.

Kāretu says, "According to the statistics, the numbers are going down, but that is misleading because it doesn't take into account the increase in numbers of the up and coming generation.”

Kāretu will give a State of Te Reo address tonight. He is a long standing stalwart of te reo Māori, that is now ready to pass the responsibility on.

Even though Tīmoti Kāretu believes that the language is in safe hands with the younger generation, he does caution not to invest heavily in the masses, but commit resources to those that are dedicated to the cause.

Increasing the numbers of those dedicated speakers is perhaps the big challenge.