'The reo is your reo too'

6:49 pm on 30 November 2015

Plans are under way to get everyone in Auckland speaking te reo Māori.

The new Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland Languages Strategy aims for all Aucklanders to be multi-lingual in English, Māori and a third language.

The plan, spearheaded by COMET Auckland, is being launched at the University of Auckland today.

Chief executive Susan Warren said 160 languages were spoken in Auckland.

"We walk down the street now and hear different languages spoken around us and we see signage in different languages and it makes the city a more vibrant pace," she said.

The last census showed 377,000 Aucklanders spoke two languages.

But Ms Warren said that still left just more than one million others who only spoke only one, and that was generally English.

"We do still have this idea that monolingualism is normal and that you can get by in life with just English, but in the world we live in today, that's just not true."

Nearly 40 percent of Auckland residents were born overseas and within two generations of being here, many lose their native language.

But it is the decline of te reo Māori speakers that is the major concern.

Only 2.3 percent of Aucklanders can speak te reo Māori - the lowest rate in the country.

COMET project manager Hauauru Rawiri said the strategy's foundation acknowledged the indigenous language as being te reo Māori.

"It's a foundation for other languages and cultures to grow.

"We talked about the 'and', not the 'or'. How can we help to grow our te reo Māori in Tāmaki Makaurau and not at the expense of stopping any other languages flourishing."

University of Auckland Senior Lecturer John McCaffery also helped develop the strategy.

It was about practical ways to increase the use of te reo, he said.

"That's not just about greater support for Māori-medium education and for kohanga reo and early childhood but use by the city council, by organisations, on the signage, in welcoming manuhiri [guests] to Auckland.

"The whole idea is to get Māori to ... be used and seen as our national language, as it should be."

National control over Māori language development is being transferred from an independent commission to a new body, Te Matawai, which will be run by iwi leaders.

But it should not rest with Māori alone, Mr McCaffery said.

"If you want to be a citizen of New Zealand, if you want to be a citizen of Auckland, we have to see that our local authorities and our government in this area fronts up with the funding to do that.

"It's not intended that it comes out of putea [money] Māori, or out of settlement moneys or treaty settlement. If you want to be a citizen of Auckland, the reo is your reo too."

The Auckland Council is considering the strategy.