PM - Govt must ensure te reo spoken across multiple platforms

By Kelvin McDonald

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says the government has a responsibility to ensure te reo is spoken across multiple platforms and believes the education sector has a key role to play in ensuring the language flourishes.

In an interview for Māori Television's new current affairs programme Te Ao with Moana,  the prime minister told host Moana Maniapoto that a concerted effort was needed if the government is to achieve its 2040 goal of a million Kiwis speaking basic te reo.

However, she wasn't prepared to say whether that would necessarily see additional funding for iwi radio or Māori Television.

"I do think we do have a responsibility...actually hearing te reo being spoken across different platforms, across multiple different [platforms], whether it's online, whether it's existing television, radio.  That exposure- especially, if we've got that goal by 2040," says Ardern.

Asked whether the education sector, more so than broadcasters, had the most direct responsibility for driving Māori language revitalisation, Ardern said she believed educators would lead the way but recognised there were hurdles to overcome.

"Of course it does and one of the challenges we have is the same as we have in education generally, that we don't have enough teachers," she says.

"That's been one of [Associate Education Minister Kelvin Davis'] big challenges, how do we encourage more speakers to go into teaching the language in our education system? 

"We've put in more scholarships to try and encourage it, but actually what we also need to do, and we've been working on this as well, is try and teach that language competency to those people who are already in education so it can be used day-to-day in the classroom." 

The prime minister was particularly keen to emphasise the government's extra boost for kōhanga reo in the Budget, saying she recognised it was "a long time coming" and "a start".

"It is $32 million that goes into everything from IT systems to some of the buildings, but also making sure that what has been a largely voluntary workforce, they actually should be paid in many cases. [It's] much more volunteer-based than our other early childhood education providers."

Ardern says she's making an effort herself to learn and use te reo as much as possible.

"I hope by trying to use te reo as often as I can, even if I stumble, that at least I'm demonstrating- look, sometimes we won't be perfect, but actually just putting in that effort that's making a difference too.  I hope my pronunciation is improving if nothing else," she says.

Te Ao with Moana's interview with Ardern was recorded on Friday, 7 June. WATCH the full interview here.

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Te Ao with Moana, Episode 1. Interview with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.